“She/He’s a great worker. A real multitasker!”
Have you ever had a boss, manager, or co-worker say this about you? It sounds like a great compliment but it could be a sign that you’ve got a problem. We consider multitasking a virtue in the business world, but we are dead wrong. Multitasking isn’t a virtue; focusing on one thing at a time is. Here are the reasons why multitasking might be killing your productivity.
Our Brains Aren’t Designed to Multitask
You may feel like you’re productive when you’re multitasking, but you’re actually putting a great deal of strain on your brain. The human brain isn’t designed to switch between multiple tasks at once. Although it may seem seamless, you’re actually shifting gears slightly every time you move to another task. This gives your brain more to do, and this is the reason why multitasking burns you out.
Paying Attention Is Productive
We mistakenly think that multitasking is more productive. You’re doing more stuff at once, so you’re getting more done, right? But the truth is that narrowing your focus and zeroing in on one task at a time makes that task go faster and more smoothly. It will take more time to do multiple tasks at once than it would to do them in order.
Multitasking Multiplies Errors
You may not have noticed, but when you multitask, you make small errors you wouldn’t usually make. Go back over your work and check. Chances are you’ll find tiny mistakes which are the result of not giving the work the full attention it deserves. Focus on one task at a time and you’ll see higher quality work without the mistakes.
When you start off with your multiple tasks, you might feel that you’re highly productive and getting things done. But it’s likely that after a while, a feeling of stress and burnout will descend upon you, and you’ll find your nerves frazzled, snapping at your team members, and feeling like your computer could use a sound drop-kick. Multitasking causes stress, and this is why productivity experts and psychologists warn against it.
Prioritizing to the Rescue
There’s never any need to multitask when you know how to prioritize. Let’s say that you have five things to do. Why not do them all at once? Because instead, you can take each task and assign a level of priority to it. Now, you have five items on a list that goes from most important to least important. The truth is, you always have some tasks that are more important than others. If you prioritize, you’ll get the most important things done quickly and right.
Rub Your Tummy and Pat Your Head
Now, rub your stomach while patting your head and, if you really want to see why multitasking doesn’t work, whistle the melody of the last song you heard on the radio. You’ll find these three simple things exceedingly hard to do and this is a clear demonstration of why multitasking isn’t a good way to work.