Stop Multitasking and Focus Instead

December 31, 2014


Because we believe that multitasking frees up minutes—and minutes eventually add up to hours—nearly everyone engages in it. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can address multiple tasks simultaneously. And we believe that we’ll perform each task equally as well.

All of the data suggests that nothing could be further from the truth.

Loads of studies consistently find that most human beings can’t multitask effectively. Attempt to do things at once, and you will end up doing neither very well. Test your own ability. Try reading aloud from your favorite website while keyboarding content from a different site. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to both with any accuracy for a period as short as a few seconds.

Rapidly switching between tasks—for example drafting a critical section of a legal brief or a complex financial analysis while responding to an on-going barrage of emails—is no more useful when it comes to your productivity at work. According to David Meyer, Ph.D., University of Michigan, shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of an individual employee’s productive time. Those costs increase as tasks become more complex.

If you wish to manage your time most effectively, go cold turkey and stop multitasking today. Following are five strategies that you can employ:

1.  Take control of your technology.

Turn off your smartphone. Forward your landline calls. Close down email. If you’re working on a computer screen, shut down anything and everything except the actual project that you need to tackle. Do not allow any beeping sounds or flickering technology to disturb your focus.

2.  Focus on one project at a time.

Grab your most important task and tackle it. Know where you want to start and stop. Do not even think about another task until you finish your most important one.

3.  Work on a clear workspace.

This is especially important when you are easily distracted by miscellany—and who isn’t every now and then? When I struggle to find just the right word or phrase, seeing a nearby magazine can transport me from the problem on my laptop to a sunny beach in no time flat. Though it’s oftentimes a delicious break, when I’m in the middle of an important project, I can’t afford to let my imagination wander. With the exception of the materials needed to complete a project, clear everything off your workspace.

Smart students and new professionals take control of their smartphones, tablets, and computers, and they avoid letting technology control them. To maximize productivity, make appointments with yourself, during which you focus on one task at a time, and stop multitasking today!


What You Need To Know

Multitasking negatively impacts your brain, productivity, and critically important business relationships. Stop multitasking today. Focus instead!



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