I remember when I finished my university studies and was applying for jobs, during interviews with employers, I used to say that I was good at multitasking and could cope with multiple priorities at the same time. Oh boy! Was that a lie or what?
The term multitasking originated in the computer industry and referred to a multiprocessor’s ability to process a number of tasks simultaneously.
The idea of being able to multitask is almost an expectation if you’re an employee however if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, it may not necessarily be the best practice to adopt.
Here are five reasons why you need to stop multitasking so that you can reach a higher level of productivity and performance. Some of these reasons are backed by studies conducted, while some are based on my own experience with multitasking.
- We’re actually not good at it. I’m sorry to say it but if you think you’re really good at multitasking, a study conducted by the University of Utah concluded that those who multitask are actually bad at it. The research showed that those who used a mobile or cell phone while driving scored less than those who did not use a mobile or cell phone while driving confirming that it is better to concentrate on one thing at a time.
- It can be dangerous. Following on from the previous point, I personally have found that in the past, when I was speaking to someone on the phone while driving, even if I was using hands-free technology, it dramatically reduced my road awareness and increased the likelihood of having an accident.
Hence I do not ever speak on the phone while I’m driving. Similarly, there is research that also shows that people who use their mobile devices while walking are less likely to look before crossing a street or are more likely to bump into another pedestrian. Now that can be dangerous!
- Our short term memory may suffer. Whenever we move back and forth between several tasks, we’re not actually multitasking, instead we are task-switching. Constantly switching between several tasks actually decreases productivity because our attention is diluted on the act of switching focus. Also, switching from one task to suddenly focus on another can disrupt our short term memory, according to a 2011 study.
- It slows us down. Multitasking actually doesn’t save us time and in most cases, it may result in more time needed to finish tasks or projects. This is because by constantly switching between tasks, we aren’t giving ourselves enough time to concentrate and give our full attention to what we’re doing.
That also increase the chances of making more mistakes especially if the tasks we’re working on requires focused thinking. What will save us the most time is to do things in batches. For example, send emails in a certain time block rather than throughout the day.
- It can create more stress for us. As human beings, we like to see that we are making progress and whenever we feel that we aren’t progressing, it tends to generate more stress and cause us to become more tense. Have you been around people who have a lot of things to do? What are they like then compared to when they don’t have to do a lot of things?
Chances are you prefer to be around them when they have less things to do. Why? Probably because they are more relaxed and their stress levels are lower. Hence doing one thing at a time is a lot better for our health and will also enhance our ability to get things done quicker.
It has been said that multitasking is worse than a lie. I know that all too well having previously considered myself as being good at multitasking. However I have since learned that I am more productive and effective when I just do one thing at a time.
For anyone who considers themselves to be good at multitasking, consider doing an experiment for at least week where you only do one thing at a time instead of multitasking. My prediction is you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Question: What would be one reason why you’d consider not multitasking anymore?
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