One of the most discussed topics when people talk about productivity is multitasking. Does multitasking help or hurt productivity?
We all do it: Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner. In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful.
But chances are, you’re not doing yourself any favors by constantly switching your way through the day. Research shows that it’s not nearly as efficient as we like to believe, and can even be harmful to our health.
The price we pay for multitasking
The ability to multitask would be a desirable skill for those who work in a digital environment. But science has confirmed that such switching comes at a steep price. And here's why:
Reduced productivity by 40%
Switching back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity, because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.
Incapability to think creatively
The more tasks there are, the less efficiently the brain works. It's because our brain is looking for ways to close down energy draining programs, e.g. creativity.
High chances to make a mistake
When you're multitasking, the overhead of switching between activities can lead to open loops in your productivity, not to mention forgetting the status of the previous task. Not only are you exposing yourself to spending more energy and time on small tasks, you are also increasing the probability of making a mistake.
Decreased memory function
If you try to do two things at the sane time – read a book and watch television for example, you’re going to miss important details on both things. Interrupting one task to suddenly focus on another is enough to disrupt short-term memory
Let play a little game that was offered in Dave Crenshaw's book “The myth of multitasking”, in order to illustrate in practice how switching between tasks affects our performance and productivity.
1) Take a piece of paper and draw two horizontal lines.
2) Set up a timer of have a friend help you measure the time as you carry out the task.
3) Write “I am a great multitasker” on the first line.
4) Write out the numbers 1-20 sequentially on the second line.
5) How much time did it take to carry out both tasks? Usually, it takes around 20-30 seconds.
Now, let’s multitask!
Just like before, take a piece of paper and draw two horizontal lines. Again, have a timer set up or a friend help you. But this time, write a letter on one line, and then a number on the other, then the next letter in the sentence on the upper line, and then the next number in the sequence, changing from line to line.
In other words, you write the letter “I” and then the number “1” and then the letter “a” and then the number “2” and so on, until you complete both lines.
So how much time did it take you to carry out this task? Usually it takes 40 to 50 seconds, and it's much harder to stay concentrated.
5 tips to overcome multitasking
We have 5 great tips that will help to stay organized and productive.
1. Break the work down
If you have to work on a big project, break it up into small parts and make an accurate plan of action. When you have a plan, you spend a lot less time thinking about what to start with. Thus you have less desire to switch to another task.
2. Plan your day
Dedicate the first 30 minutes of your day to building a plan. Write down all the tasks from the most important to the least important and assign time for every task.
3. Cut out distractions
Avoid using social media during the day, unless you actually need it for work purposes.
Use only work-related websites and applications and cut out any productivity killers.
4. Execute tasks one by one
You will get more things done quicker and with fewer mistakes if you do them individually.
Also make sure that you finish the task to closure, before moving on to the other.
5. Clean up your desk
A cluttered workspace is a multitasker's dream! There's a lot of random things that you can pick up and play with instead of working! 🙂