Why Multi-Tasking Is Making You Less Productive

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In today’s society, we have become inundated with lights, sounds, action and technology. There is so much to see and do that people often turn to multitasking as a way of getting everything done. But multitasking is making you less productive!

We have all fallen into this trap where we conduct all of our business via phone or computer and think that the solution to our productivity is adding more and more screens.

Let’s just stop for a minute and take a step back. Having three screens so you can multitask across three different projects is not 33% more productive than two screens. In fact, it has the opposite result and can make you less productive.

Let’s look at why!

Why Multi-Tasking Makes You Less Productive

There are a number of reasons why multi-tasking can make you less productive and before you think that this doesn’t affect you David Strayer, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah estimates that only 2% of the population are capable of multi-tasking effectively. So if you still think this issue doesn’t affect you, at the very least it will affect someone on your team.

Multi-Tasking Is a Disguise For Procrastination

Why Multitasking Is Making You Less Productive - Procrastination

People who struggle to get things done often claim to be busy. Furthermore, they often point to the fact that they are doing so many things simultaneously as the reason why they are behind schedule.

What is actually happening in this situation is that the person is procrastinating. They don’t quite know what or how to do something so they keep switching between tasks. They then circle round to the issue that is troubling them fifteen or twenty minutes later, try and do a bit more work before moving on again when it all gets too difficult.

They are essentially stuck in a merry-go-round where they fail to make any significant process.

Multi-Tasking Reduces Your Focus

Why Multitasking Is Making You Less Productive - Focus

Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time. We are not like a computer where we can successfully run multiple applications simultaneously.

When we switch from one task to another we face a “ramp up cost” in time and focus as we switch from one thing to another. In some workplace situations this may not be a big issue. By if you are an air traffic controller, trader on Wall Street or trying to take a phone call while driving this ramp up period can have a significant cost.

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Multi-Tasking Literally Wastes Time

Why Multitasking Is Making You Less Productive - Waste Time

How many times have you been in a meeting or presentation and everyone around you is typing on their laptop?

They are trying to get work done while they are in the meeting. But by trying to juggle two things at once they essentially miss what the meeting was all about, don’t gather all of the required information they need or worse yet ask questions that have already been answered.

While it feels like they are getting more done in that particular moment by the time they step out of the meeting they need to try and figure out what exactly was said and done and how that relates to their role.

Small Tasks Take Away From The Big Picture

Why Multitasking Is Making You Less Productive - Big Picture

We all know what its like to work when you get into a flow. Whether you are writing a proposal or designing a new house, when you find yourself in the moment time almost seems to stand still and your productivity skyrockets.

How can you ever get in that moment if you continually stop to reply to an email? Or take a quick look at the news or social media? If you focus on one thing at a time you can get into the zone, complete the task you need to do and take a 10 minute break during which you respond to those emails or messages before moving onto the next thing on your list.

At the end of the day social pressure has led us to become increasingly dependent on technology to manage our ever more complicated life and schedule. Expectations in terms of what we can do and by when have risen and this in turn places more pressure on us.

To break free we need to take a step back and realize how we work best and the research shows that, that is dedicating ourselves to one task at a time. If you want to see your productivity improve how about you stop multi-tasking for a week and see what results it delivers for you.

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About Author

Paul Towers - Founder @ Task Pigeon

Paul Towers is a 3x Entrepreneur and Founder of Task Pigeon. Join me on my journey to build an open & transparent startup from day one. Paul is also the founder of Startup Soda, a newsletter curating the best content from the Australian startup ecosystem.