I love to find ways to be more productive.   

Productivity is my way of not doing more but creating more freedom to do things I love. 

When we think of productivity, many will believe that multitasking is one way to be more productive. I used to be one of them. Yet, research suggests that multitasking hampers your productivity.  

We believe that multitasking is the ability to accomplish multiple things simultaneously. However, the reality is that you are not doing multiple things simultaneously but are switching your attention and focus between various things, and switching attention and focus decreases productivity.   It requires more effort and concentration, resulting in one or more of the tasks suffering. 

If you think you don’t multitask, take a look at the desktop or phone you are reading this blog on. Do you have multiple browsers open? Are you receiving notifications for emails and messages? If you said yes, you are multitasking. 

Communication multitasking is one of the most significant ways we multitask.  

Let’s look at the impact of multitasking. 


Multitasking slows you down.

We believe multitasking saves us time because we work on multiple things simultaneously.   

However, our brains cannot do two things at once. What we are doing is bouncing between tasks, and there is a cost to switching back and forth.    

The switch might be fast, but the bandwidth you need to jump from task to task is more significant. 

I talked about this recently with one of my accountability groups. We were talking about increasing productivity, and one activity I suggested was a time study. 

I suggested the time study to bring awareness to two things. The first was the time spent on specific tasks (i.e., social media, email, games, and more). The second was to use the time study to track to demonstrate how often we switch from task to task. I expected them to be shocked at how often they moved from one task to another. 

I used the impact of our smartphones as an example. If your phone notifies you whenever you receive an email, text, or other messages, think about what happens. When my phone is beside my laptop face up, and a text comes in, my phone will flash. That flash is enough to cause a pause. Whether I checked my phone or not, that interruption stopped my progress, and it slowed me down. 

That switch, that loss of focus, has a cost. Essentially, it is slowing you down. 

Multitasking can be distracting.

I can listen to the radio and drive when I’m driving my car. I can listen to music and work when I’m at my desk.  

In both examples, I’m multitasking. I’m switching from one task to the other. I’m changing my focus from one to the other.  

Now imagine I’m at my desk and updating the planning workbook for my upcoming planning workshop. I also have my email open and get notified each time a new email comes in. 

Each time I stop updating the workbook to switch to check email (perhaps even responding to it) and then return to the workbook, it is a distraction.  

Each time I switch, I have to figure out what I am doing, where I am, and what my next step is. This happens quickly, and I often don’t even realize I’m doing this. However, the distraction of that email disrupted my flow and creative thinking, and it also increased my chances of making errors and missing mistakes.  

The distraction of multitasking is worse in high-stress situations or when I need to be productive. 

When I’m lost or the traffic is heavy, I turn off the radio because I need to concentrate. I can’t handle the added distraction of the music. When writing a blog, I find some music is too distracting and have to either turn off the music or switch to instrumental music.  

Do you wear a watch that is connected to your phone? I did for a bit. I loved the way it interacted with the GPS, I liked the health monitoring, and more, but I couldn’t handle the distraction each time it buzzed on my wrist when a text or email came in. I found it caused my brain to pause or “hiccup.” I see this often when in meetings with those wearing the watch. They can’t help but glance down at it. It was effectively moving their attention from our conversation to the watch. The distractions caused by multitasking are not a big deal when doing simple tasks like entering receipts and listening to music, but it’s a big deal when safety and productivity are important. 

A final note on the cost of multitasking

I can keep talking about multitasking and why it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I can tell you how it increases anxiety, inhibits creative thinking, and stops us from getting into a flow. 

I can tell you that even if we think we are staying focused, most of our time is spent thinking about something other than what we are currently doing. This, too, has a cost. 

However, I’ll stop here. 

I’ll let you digest this information. Even challenge you to think about how you multitask and what the impact could be. 

In my next blog, I will share some ways to reduce the amount of multitasking you do in a day. And let’s be honest, we live in a world that expects us to multitask, so this will not be easy, but it will be worth it.  

Mulittasking dives your attention and leads to consusion and weakened focus.

Deepak Chopra

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