We’re continuing the series on productivity hacks with a piece on multitasking. If you’ve looked up ways to make your CV sound more impressive, you’ve probably seen multitasking as a must-have skill. Or, maybe you’ve been through times where you had more things to do at once and, instead of taking each task one by one, you started more at the same time and worked on each one somehow at the same time. At first, it might seem like this approach is the most productive way to go. How could it not be, I mean you’re doing more things at the same time – the outcome must equal an increase in productivity. Right? Well, not exactly.
Multitasking, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the performance of multiple tasks at one time”. At a first glance, it might sound like multitasking is the hack towards productivity. Ironically, according to this article from Forbes, only about around 2% of the population can proclaim the title of productive multitaskers. The rest of us don’t effectively practice this approach, leading to a decrease in our overall productivity. So, the next time you wonder if it’s beneficial to add “multitasking” to your CV, consider this study. Since multitasking can reduce your productivity by as much as 40%, is it truly helpful for you or the organization you’re working at to be a “multitasker”?
Why do we glorify multitasking?
For starters, we might not even know how to correctly spot multitasking. “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession, or task-switching,”, according to neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, PhD. A correct example of multitasking is the mix between running while listening to a podcast. Or cooking while singing along to the music in the background. But if we are jumping from one task to another, that’s not multitasking. Is just a very efficient way to tire your brain. So, what we’re glorifying is not even what we think we’re glorifying and it also makes us unproductive.
In this article, Dr Kubu mentions that “If we’re constantly attempting to multitask, we don’t practice tuning out the rest of the world to engage in deeper processing and learning.” Why? Because this approach divides our attention, which, by default, makes it harder for us to dive deeper into one single task. Besides this, it also doesn’t give us the chance to mindfully engage in our actions. So, why do we glorify multitasking? Just because it gives us the false impression that we completed our tasks faster? But what’s the point in completing a task if we don’t give it our full attention to assure we’re solving it in the best possible way, while also enjoying the time we spend working on it?
Choose to tackle tasks one by one
It might be hard at first, especially if you’ve been under the impression that you’re an effective multitasker (there’s always a chance you’re among that 2% of the population). I was also a sucker for multitasking and, sometimes, when I have lots of things to do and I feel pressured by the time, I tend to give in to the old habits. I try to do multiple things at once, until I realize that I’m just wasting more time with this approach because I can’t truly focus on either of the tasks I’m pursuing at that moment. That’s the moment when I remember why I promised to stop multitasking.
What can also be very helpful is having a supportive team that understands multitasking equals false efficiency. You can be the one that changes your team approach as well. I’m positive almost nobody wants to continue on a path that can decrease their team’s productivity by even 40%. Monotasking is our default mode. And, instead of trying to change it and fail, we should embrace it and work on excelling at it. This is what’s going to ultimately increase your productivity and help you maintain your overall wellbeing.
Stop multitasking. Focus on one task at a time. If you still don’t believe us, check out this article, this article, or this article. And, keep in mind that you’re not actually multitasking at work (unless you’re among that 2% of the population, of course), you’re just quickly jumping from one task to another. Which is tiring your brain. Which, ultimately, makes you unproductive. Wouldn’t it be easier, better, and more productive, to follow your default mode and focus on monotasking?
Article written by: Ruxandra Mazilu