Sep 29, 2021 by Matt Dixon
We’re used to doing multiple things at once. Sending emails while eating, working on one thing, then starting another, doing our tasks while helping a coworker with theirs- The list goes on and on. It’s normal to do more than one thing at once. We are accustomed to trying to do everything because we think it’s beneficial to us in some capacity. We sometimes correlate multitasking with productivity. Juggling tasks at work can be done but to a certain extent. In all reality multitasking negatively affects our productivity.
When you start a task and are focused on that particular project, your outcomes are more effective because you dedicated time to this particular task. When you mix projects typically you end up taking longer to finish them and not being able to differentiate between what’s important or not because you combined the separate tasks. Multitasking is hindering your productivity and your ability to focus.
I used to think doing everything at once was a super power. I thought being able to achieve what needed to be done by combining my time to finish my projects was the best solution to effectively getting stuff done. But in reality my productivity worsened and the length of time I would have needed to finish my task was extended because I wasn’t focusing on one thing at a time. I was focused on everything I needed to do and not what I had to do at the moment. I got so wrapped up in starting, that I couldn’t effectively finish anything.
I stopped multitasking when I realized that it was hurting my work. It’s easier to focus on the task at hand, the one that is most important to finish and the one with the closet deadline. Tasks can be hard sometimes and maybe you’re deflecting your attention from a task because you find it challenging, or you’re uninterested in it or maybe you don’t understand what you’re doing completely- Whatever your situation is, shifting your attention to another task won’t solve the challenges or difficulties you're currently having with a project. Focus and prioritize your time and energy. The best results come from focused attention.
Telling you that multitasking is hurting your performance at work, and that it’s not actually helpful, may be triggering to multitaskers. But even science is on the side of not multitasking. There have been multiple studies on multitasking and its effect on performance. A study done by the University of Utah showed that only “2.5% of the population actually process tasks simultaneously”. (University of Utah) More than likely, self-proclaimed multitaskers aren’t actually multitasking. You’re creating more problems by trying to multitask rather than by just focusing on one thing at a time- Taking longer to complete tasks, increased stress, not being able to focus, forgetting to complete things due to your mind being overworked with an abundance of information- If you focus on one thing, It will get done and done to a standard you can be proud of. Don’t hinder your productivity at work and potentially be affecting yourself by trying to multitask.
For instance, the Harvard Business Review reported that “multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity and a 10% drop in IQ.” Multitasking is something we are all used to doing. Some multitasking can work. For example, Eating dinner and watching a movie, texting and listening to music, online shopping and working. Other multitasking is not possible- for example, solving a math problem and writing an email simultaneously. Your attention span is meant to be focused on one thought provoking thing at a time. If you start multiple things at once, it becomes difficult to focus. You wouldn’t be able to effectively solve the math problem and finish the email at the same time, you have to have a focal point.
It’s hard not to multitask, I get that, but limiting if not completely stopping multitasking at work is crucial for ultimate performance and productivity. It is also possible that if you feel the need to multitask you might have too much on your plate. Ask for help if accessible, prioritize what’s important and schedule your time accordingly. Your productivity will enhance, your quality of work will improve, your stress levels will subside and you’ll be more successful in turn.
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