Multitasking is Hard
Have you ever tried to get that paper done only to be distracted by social media or the television?
Have you burnt dinner because you were trying to pay bills and water the lawn at the same time?
Ever forgot multiple things at the grocery store because you were talking on the phone while shopping?
We’ve all been there. We have so much on our plates and so little time to do them. It seems natural, and productive, that we should try to do multiple things at once to catch up. Hell, entire business models have been created around the idea of multitasking, but it needs to stop. In order to be productive, we need to be present, organized and focused.
Our productivity lies in our ability to focus on one object at a time. Additionally, we all would benefit from having more time. We need to stop multitasking to gain more productivity.
One Task at a Time
The problem is that when we burden ourselves with multitasking, we don’t do anything well.
Yes, our brains are capable of doing two (or more) things at once, but that doesn’t mean we do them well or in a productive manner. In fact, some studies now show that multitasking has a detrimental effect on our brains.
Want some proof? Put down your phone, tablet, let go of your mouse, etc. and pat your head over and over again. Easy, right? Now try to rub your belly. Piece of cake, right? I think you know where this is going. Combine the two and all of a sudden this becomes a difficult skill. Your daily tasks are no different.
As a teacher, I have seen firsthand the benefits of “singletasking” both with myself and with my students. When I have fourteen tabs open on my computer screen while trying to email a student back, fill out an IEP report, and plan a lesson for the next day, I end up getting nowhere fast. Instead, I have started to write out a plan for my planning periods. I prioritize my to-dos and simply start at the top and work my way down.
I see the same thing with my students. They are listening to my directions while searching through their backpacks while getting a vibration notification on their phone. So sure enough, I end up repeating the directions time and again.
In the last few years, I have seen my students stumble their way along while multitasking, I have started to really focus on helping them with time management and study skills, using articles such as this one. In talking with them, time and again we have come to the same general conclusion: stop multitasking!
Dedicate specific, uninterrupted time toward completing a task. Save the next task for whenever you finish the first. You will find that “single-tasking” will boost productivity.
Try to stop multitasking for a day or two and then reassess. See if you feel like you have accomplished more in those days than you had when you were attempting to multitask.
Did it work? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
1 thought on “So You Want to Be Productive? Stop Multitasking!”
I love how this post highlights the downsides of a trait that society is currently treating as a “core requisite” for most employee’s!
A favourite book of mine that discusses our inability to effectively multitask is Flow. It dives deep into the science of why our brains aren’t actually doing multiple things at once, but switching from task to task, reducing our efficiency across the board.
Your recommendation to focus on a singular task at a time is spot on. I personally used to think I was a great multi-tasker, but when I finally understood how detrimental it was, and made the switch to focussing on one thing at a time, I saw huge gains in what I was able to accomplish!