Multitasking is highly overrated and counterproductive.
Contrary to popular belief, multitasking may not be an effective way of getting things done.
While it may be highly praised and in great demand, especially in the workplace, recent research shows that not only does it take a serious toll on productivity, but it can also become a harmful habit to our health and quality of life.
In the short run, multitasking can help us deal with urgent situations and adapt to chaotic circumstances by being able to think fast and respond quickly. However, in the long run, it is not sustainable. Burnout is inevitable as we run out of energy and motivation. We are human beings and not built like machines that can endure endless hours of numerous tasks.
First of all, our brains are not wired for handling multiple things at the same time.
When we are multitasking, what is actually happening is that our brain is bouncing back and forth between tasks in rapid succession; this should be called task switching instead.
Studies have shown that each time we switch gears, our overall productivity rate gets reduced by 20%. It ends up taking more time to complete the task thus slowing us down and decreasing the quality of our work.
The ironic part is that the more we multitask, the less work we end up doing. As our workload keeps on multiplying, the more we think we have to keep on multitasking. This becomes a frustrating never ending cycle of mentally and physically taxing our system. We cannot perform at our best while we are forcing our brain to go in different directions all at the same time.
Apart from draining our cognitives reserves, constant task switching comes with other detrimental effects:
- Multitasking dulls our reaction time, our intelligence, and our ability to knows what’s important and what’s not. By not setting priorities, it can decrease our ability to focus.
- As we are frantically juggling multiple tasks, we might miss out on important details and thus making us more prone to making mistakes and becoming absentminded.
- Multitasking compromises our memory and inhibits our creativity.
- The constant interruptions lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Feeling overwhelmed and under constant pressure, may cause the illusion of being super busy but at the end of the day we feel exhausted and behind on our work. This can lead to procrastination and mental fatigue.
- Multitasking is not good for relationships. As we end up using extra energy to play catch up, our interpersonal skills and social needs suffer as we have no time or energy to pay attention to the important people in our lives.
THE SOLUTION = SINGLE TASKING
Your brain works best when focusing on one thing at a time.
Opting to focus on one task at a time can benefit and balance many aspects of our lives by enhancing the quality of our work and making the tasks more enjoyable.
- As there is less stress and distractions, we can get into that state of flow, where we can finish what we started. This can also boost our creativity. Ask any writer, artist, or musician about how their most creative and productive works take place when they get into the zone.
- By setting clear priorities, we can place our entire attention on the task that needs to be completed by limiting the constant bombardment of interruptions.
- Set a dedicated time to do focused work so you can do things in batches as well as in bursts. Consider grouping together similar tasks, like working on just paying your bills or just answering your emails. By setting blocks of time, this can allow for better concentration and actually getting more done in less time.
The Pompodoro Technique helps us work smarter and not harder. We work with time rather than against it. It’s easy as 1, 2, 3 and all we need is a timer.
- Create a list of priorities in order of importance and decide which task we want to work on.
- Set timer for 25 minutes and get to work on that one task with no interruptions.
- After each interval of 25 minutes, take by a 5 minute break; after 4 cycles, we can take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
Working in small increments helps us maintain our focus and motivation. We enhance our planning by using our time more effectively. Plus, we feel better at the end of our day, not only because we are more productive but because we also managed to keep our energy high by refuelling and refocusing.
When our attention is divided, it becomes difficult to give our full attention to one thing and to be truly present in the moment. We become less efficient and more likely to make errors.
It may not be as apparent when we are doing mindless tasks like folding the laundry while watching TV. However, I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of missing our exist on the highway because we were talking on the phone. Or the stakes can become higher or dangerous when we take on more complex tasks, like trying to text while driving. Besides, think about this; we wouldn’t want our surgeon to be multitasking while he/she is operating on us.
Break the habit of multitasking by harnessing the power of single tasking.
Instead of jumping between tasks and doing shallow work, choose to do more deeply focused work. Instead of wasting time, we are, in fact, saving time.
Managing our time and energy is our most precious resource.
Isn’t it time to reconsider the way we work and how to energize our life?
Remember, get more done by doing less.