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Last Updated on November 5, 2017

Why Multitasking is Bad for You

Why Multitasking is Bad for You

Multitasking: employers love it, women are supposed to be naturals at it, and overall, it is seen to be a quality most of us would love to acquire. But is being good at multitasking really something to aspire to, and is multitasking bad for productivity in the long run?

What exactly do I mean by multitasking?

Is it literally doing multiple things at once? Or is it more like task switching; spending a certain amount of time doing one thing and then moving onto the next despite not finishing the first thing? No one seems to be totally sure, yet many of us believe that doing a lot of things simultaneously is a positive trait.

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Are multitaskers better at integrating information?

After doing a fair bit of research on the subject, opinions seem to be mixed. Researchers Kelvin Lui and Alan Wong at the Chinese University of Hong Kong came to the conclusion that people who multitask or those who frequently use lots of different media at once, are better at integrating information.

This makes sense, but what about the quality of the work? Are certain things easier to do whilst multitasking? Surely, sometimes, good solid focus and concentration is what’s needed. If you’re doing multiple activities and tasks at once, you might be better in the long run at integrating information, but will the quality of the work you produce be as good as it could have been if you’d given each task your full focus?

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Why is multitasking seen as a positive trait?

Admittedly, in the past I’ve been a serial multitasker. It’s satisfying being able to do lots of things all at once—it makes you feel productive and efficient, but in reality, I’m sure the quality of what I was doing was compromised.

Researcher Zhen Wang proves my point: after completing an extensive study with students, she came to the conclusion that people who multitask are not necessarily being more productive. In reality, the participants who had to do multiple things at once felt good about themselves, but the results of the tasks they had to complete were no where near as good as the non-multitaskers.

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Productivity and effective prioritising over multitasking

Rather than being a good multitasker, I think it would be far more beneficial to be good at prioritising and productivity. These are the traits employers should be looking for. Talking on the phone whilst writing a blog post and attempting to pay your electricity bill at the same shouldn’t be seen as impressive. In the long run, if you carried on multitasking like this, you’d wear yourself out.

I used to do it with emails—I’d feel really productive and efficient if I’d reply within seconds of receiving the message—but it’s just an unnecessary distraction.

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Focused productivity over jumbled multitasking

Rather than multitasking, I now break my time into chunks. After all if you like variety, sometimes it can be boring to do just one thing at a time. But, if you spend 20-40 minutes on each task/ activity/ item on your “to do” list, then you’re being productive, efficient, and you’ll probably make your day more interesting and varied.

On a final note, I would have to say that when I’m focusing intently on something with no distractions or task switching, the work I do is of a much better standard. Meditation and mindfulness teach us this: being focused and present on the task at hand is the key to being more productive.

What are your thoughts? Are you in favour of multitasking? Have you learned to make it work for you or does it lower the quality of the work you do? From your own experiences, do you perform better when you’ve got a lot on your plate? Or does the idea of multitasking make your head spin?

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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