Is multitasking really the most effective way to get more done? Problogger, Gina Blitstein, explores the phenomenon with Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of, The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World.
As busy people, it often seems there’s not enough of us to go around and there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything we need to do done. In an attempt to tackle a seemingly endless list of things to do and attend to, we take on more and more at once. Many women even wear their ability to multitask as a badge, awarded in recognition of their ability to juggle numerous responsibilities and tasks simultaneously. While we employ multitasking as a way to accomplish more in less time, does this strategy actually help us do that?
Author Christine Holbaum says, “Science has long since proven that multitasking is a myth. According to neuroscientific research headed by David Meyer at the University of Michigan, the brain cannot concentrate on two comparably difficult tasks at one time. What actually happens in the executive lobe of our brains is task switching. It takes a great deal of energy and focus for your brain to switch back and forth, yet so many of us attempt to multitask every day.” When our thoughts and emotions are divided between several things, no one of them is getting the attention it deserves. Not to mention that multitasking is physically and emotionally draining! We all know that when we feel drained, we have a diminished capacity to make our sharpest decisions.
In short, declares Christine, “Multitasking does not make you more efficient. It simply makes you more exhausted.” She suggests the following tips for stopping the multitasking madness:
- Eliminate distractions. At the workplace in particular, we are often distracted by externalities such as the radio playing, someone else talking loudly on the phone, unsolicited instant messages from people or simply the Internet itself. Close all the applications you don’t need to work on the task at hand. You’d be surprised how quickly you can finish that report when you’ve not intermittently updated your social media pages in the process!
- Prioritize. It sounds simple, yet it is challenging for many to stick to their plan. Once you’ve eliminated some of the common distractions in your workspace, set priorities. If you dread finishing that assignment, but know it is due first, break it down into bite-sized chunks. Tell yourself you will work on it for five minutes and allow yourself a break if you need it. Pretty soon you’ll be in the flow of things and forget how much time has gone by. It is a great way to offset procrastination. Reward yourself for the good job done such as having your favorite hot beverage or a visit to your favorite card shop in between. It will help you stay motivated and focused.
- Take time-outs. Everyone’s focus wanes at some point in the day. Remember to take mini-breaks every now and then.
It seems the key to true productivity lies in your focus. Juggling seems to be an apropos way to illustrate the ineffectiveness of multitasking. The goal of juggling is to narrow your focus. Even though there’s seemingly a lot going on, the juggler’s steely focus is on catching just one item at a time, albeit quickly. If the juggler had to catch all the items at once, he would drop them all! Clearly then, the answer to accomplishing more is to focus on one thing at a time.
Multitasking is madness! When it leaves us overwhelmed, exhausted and still overworked, multitasking is sabotaging rather than reinforcing our best efforts at productivity. Let’s try a fresher, kinder, more focused approach to tasks and see if we can tackle our to-dos without becoming a slave to the multitasking myth.
Are you ready to dispel the myth of multitasking by taking on your tasks one-on-one?