Multitasking; it doesn’t work. Attempting two or more tasks, that need our attention, at the same time results in longer completion times and higher error rates. For instance, how often have you typed what you wanted say when writing an email whilst talking on the phone?
A Multitasking Test
Do you believe multitasking works? That is to say, you can achieve more by two things at once. Then test the theory. With a partner to observe you, complete these two simple tasks at once: count down from 20 out loud and write out the alphabet. After that, complete the tasks one at a time. Which way is easier, which way is quicker?
What Multitasking Really Is
When we multitask, we switch our attention between tasks rapidly and frequently. First, we focus our attention on one task (e.g. talk). Almost immediately, we switch and focus on the second task (e.g. type). And then, almost immediately, switch back again. By tackling the talk and type tasks separately we have two tasks. On the other hand, by attempting to multitask we now have three tasks: talk, type and switch
Why Multitasking Hinders Us
The third task, switch, requires its own time and energy. Hence, it takes more time to complete than the two original tasks. Equally, we need to keep track of where we are with each of the original tasks as we switch between them. As a result of being human, our task-tracking capability is imperfect. Therefore, the more times we switch, the more likely we are to lose track and make a mistake
How To Quash Your Multitasking Tendencies
The great news about multitasking is that it’s one of the easiest time management issues to bring into check. And, here’s how to do it:
- Accept that multitasking is a hindrance, not a help. Not convinced? Take the test described above
- Recognise your inner-multitasker. In other words, be mindful of when you’re attempting two or more tasks at once
- Block out periods of time to do just one thing. Ideally periods of about an hour or so that you can maintain a high level of concentration
- Avoid distractions: For example, clear up your workspace. In addition, turn off those pesky notifications (you can learn more about notifications here)
In Summary, It Doesn’t Work
Trying to do several things at once means we are setting ourselves up to fail. Once we break the popular myth that multitasking is the ‘only way to get it all done’, our productivity and creativity will soar. First step , recognise that multitasking doesn’t work!
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