The Pitfalls of Multitasking
Think you’re getting a lot done by multitasking? Well, you’re probably not. Here are some reasons that research indicates why multitasking can actually make you less productive and not as effective.
Slows you down
Multitasking doesn’t save time. In fact, it may take you longer to finish two projects when you’re jumping back and forth than it would to finish each one separately. A study in the US National Library of Medicine cites a decrease in focus and learning.
You make mistakes
Experts estimate that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. It may also cause you to make errors in whatever you’re working on, especially if it involves a lot of critical thinking.
Shifting quickly from one task to another impacts short term memory and causes memory impairment. A 2009 study conducted by Strafford University revealed that ongoing distractions impact the multi-taskers ability to recall critical steps necessary for complicated projects and procedures. This can result in a decrease in work quality or services delivered.
Stresses you out
In addition to the negative cognitive effects cited above, multitasking has negative physical effects on the body as well. Trying to do many things at once increases the release of stress hormones and adrenaline in the body. Stress can cause anxiety and increase sick time, missed days of work and a decrease in overall productivity.
Devoting your attention to too many tasks at once, may impact your working memory, therefore decreasing your ability to come up with ideas and concepts that are truly creative.
So how can you be more productive? The simple solution is to single-task!
- Keep a short list (less than 5) of the most important things to do for the day.
- Do not do anything else before completing these tasks. (No Facebook, email, etc.)
- Clear away distractions. Turn off cell phones, incoming emails, etc.
- One task at a time. Focus only on one task until it’s done and then move on.
- When losing focus, take a standing break, a quick stretch, drink some water and gently bring your attention back to the task at hand.
- Continue to make progress on your task list. Resist the urge to do other stuff.
- When something important does come up, jot it down for later.
Adhering to these tips creates a healthier, less stressful and more productive work life.