The secret to greater productivity and happiness, while you work, is to stop multitasking, mainly if you think you are good at it.
One of the research in a regional college included setting the task of finding and documenting multitasking’s real benefits. I was a part of that project, which started around three years ago.
Surprisingly, after nearly 1000 days, we were unable to come up with a compelling ‘benefit’ of multitasking. Instead, we made some disturbing discovering. Our team found that if you are attempting to multitask a couple of duties simultaneously, it will take you nearly 45% longer than if you did them one after the other.
The students who participated in our survey were asked to pen down a report and check their email simultaneously (fairly common in a work environment). They took nearly one and a half times longer to finish than the participants who performed the same two tasks, one after the other. Even worse, if you are multitasking, you will also commit twice as many errors.
Multitasking is a Toxic Addiction
Multitasking is stressful, unproductive, and most concerning of all, it is incredibly addictive. Sadly, multitasking is creating a new generation of young leaders who are easily distracted, cannot clearly think, whose memories are disorganized and who are not as good at creative thinking and analytic reasoning.
Multitasking is addictive and enjoyable because each time you change tasks, your head gives you a quick squirt of dopamine. This follows the same neural pathways as toxic and harmful addictive drugs. As per our research, people under the age of 35 in Kyiv are so addicted to multitasking that more than 83% use their smartphones to access social media and chat with others on public transport, while watching TV (79%), at work (94%) and even when talking with friends (75%).
Is the one-track mind the solution?
If multitasking isn’t the key to getting more done, what is? The answer rests with doing what your mind does best. Except for physical activity such as eating or walking, our team has found that your brain simply cannot do a couple of things at once. If you try to multitask, it will help you out by switching between tasks as swiftly as they can.
Unfortunately, this chews up energy and time. Your brain has to continually monitor when to switch tasks, turn rules on and off each time a job is swapped, and remember where it was up to. Each time you change a task, you lose a few seconds.
According to the publicly available research, we just cannot focus on more than one thing simultaneously. What we move our focus from one thing to the next with extraordinary speed. Switching from task to task, you think you’re really paying attention to everything around you at the same time when in fact, you’re not. Our brain can only do one thing at a time. If you are writing an email while talking on the phone, you will miss most part of the conversation. If you are sending a WhatsApp msg during a meeting, you will miss minute details of the meeting.
While you think you are getting more done when you multitask, it is like spinning wheels in a car with the first gear. You look very busy, but you may not be quite productive.
The Simple Solution To Greater Productivity
As mentioned above, I believe multitasking doesn’t work. The key to accomplishing more and coping better while you do it is to focus on one task at a time and carefully choose which task that is. Do one thing at a time. The first step to being more productive is planning a list of work you need to get done, scheduling time to complete all the tasks one by one, and devote yourself thoroughly to a job without the distractions of an email or social media.
- Complete tasks that are similar simultaneously. But the real secret is to do one after the other).
- Have set times for monitoring email and other tasks that break concentration.
- Take consistent breaks. Your mind (and the rest of you) operates in 90-minute cycles, which are known as ultradian rhythms. At the end of a period, your body will send you a sign that it needs a break to unwind and refresh. Take careful notice of these signals and walk away from your desk for a few minutes. This will help you stay alert and focused when you return back to your task.