Productivity

Why multitasking is Bad and How to avoid it?

There is always a temptation among people to multitasking. in this modern world with notifications, emails and hangout messages our mind wanders somewhere. the problem is that we aren’t actually doing multi-tasking. we are switching gears in our brains, work harder and produce less quality output. at the end, we get exhausted. according to a study, it is estimated that only 2% of the population can effectively do multitasking without taking serious toll on productivity and the best part is this 2% population don’t even want to do multitasking. So, it’s better not to assume yourself under this 2% and you should focus on one thing at a time.

Does actually Multitasking works?

No. not exactly. studies have shown that you can truly multitask, but your brain is capable to switch from one task to another task at a faster rate. for eg. if you are talking and walking, your brain quickly switches and you don’t even notice. But, this doesn’t work out for more complex tasks like trying to figure out how to decrease customer acquisition cost and simultaneously attending a meeting on operations cost-cutting. The problem with multitasking is that while you have gone on to another task, part of your brain has remained focused on the task you were working on and it can affect your productivity by 40%.

Does multitasking kill my productivity?

The answer is clear, absolutely and unequivocally yes. there are tons of studies from Stanford, MIT, and many others to back this up. the amount of productivity get killed by multitasking varies from study to study, but it does slow you down to some degree. However, it may actually worse than most of think, which leads to the next question, whether multitasking good for us. Well, it’s straight no again. In fact, a study from the University of London actually found that multitasking can lower your IQ by 15 points. Since average IQ ranges in between 90-110 and 15 points hit is a pretty big hit.

Why do I need to quit multitasking?

Daniel J. Levitin explains in his article in Guardian, that “Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens,” put that in simple language, your brain gets a dose of joy in switching tasks.

Multitasking Increases Stress

trying to do more tasks in time puts pressure on your brain, our human brain is capable of doing only one thing at a time, it was designed that way. Now, if adding more pressure to do two different complex tasks at the same time, it takes more time for the brain to switch tasks in between. this causes stress as the as these same tasks take more time than normal. So at the end of the day, you will end up doing nothing valuable. So setting too many goals at one time does more harm than good. whenever you are working concentrate on one thing, finish it and move to next.

Also, researchers from the UK have found that multitasking increases your body’s stress hormone Cortisol and can lead to increase heart rate and blood pressure which could cause you some serious health problems down the road.

Multitasking Weakens Your Memory

Absenteeism and memory loss is very common among people who do multitasking. Frequent multitasking is detrimental to your memory. As our brain is not designed to handle too many things at a single time and you are doing different tasks at the time same time, and you won’t be paying proper attention towards anything. Whatever you are working on, you will not able to recollect properly. even though short term memory loss is very common, but beware there are studies which say, there might be permanent damage to memory.

Multitasking Kills Your Creativity

Creativity gets affected by multitasking. for creativity either in work or art, you require undivided attention and dedication which can never be done if you are multitasking, While multi-tasking you are moving from one task to another, due to which you won’t be able to concentrate on the particular task on a one time. there is a chance you may work on many tasks at one time, but you will definitely get into a struggle for some serious problem-solving. this reason for this is simple, your brain is habituated to shift between tasks and you aren’t giving any time to think creative for complex problem solving and it no longer able to concentrate on one thing with full attention.

For eg. do not check your emails or messages if you are working on some serious problem. If emails were important then take a break, reply to them and get back to your work.

How to quit multitasking and getting more things done?

Just because your brain is used to multitask, it doesn’t mean you should break that habit. There are many ways to stop multitasking. Here I am giving 4 tips to quit multitasking which worked for most people.

1. Clean and organize your work area.

Having a clean work area helps you to stay focussed and limit your distractions. Get rid of those extra items in your work area and keep that item which is absolutely necessary. The best way to say this is, “the mess which is there on your table reflects your mind.” with the unorganized desk you will have real trouble to focus one thing at a time. Moreover, an item on top of your desk will distract your concentration and in turn taking a toll on productivity. If your work area is clean, your brain is more capable of handling the task with minimum distraction. Also if your work area is clean and you will find results within a short span of time.

2. Setting blocks of time for your to-do list

One of the most productive ways to quit multitasking is setting up blocks of time. There are lots of to-do list, apps to help on the same. It literally gives the flexibility to do more things in a short span of time. time blocks will help you not to escape from hard tasks as you have given yourself an appointment to do things. you made a commitment by scheduling a task within a specific period of time. There is something called a Pomodoro technique, which you can use it for time blocks. We did had a curated list of apps for the Pomodoro technique here.

Vilfredo Pareto, renowned economist is known for his famous Pareto principle(80/20 rule). 20% of time investment gives 80% of the desired output. Making a to-do list based on the Pareto principle would give better results. If you are focussing on single task a time, your productivity will boost to the maximum and you would be able to see results within a short span of time.

3. Eliminating distractions

You come to the office early, and you think you can start your day slowly as you have time. turn on your computer, check emails, open facebook or twitter and checking the feed, reading market news or sending message to your dearest friend and when you are about to start your work but, “Hold On! How come 2 hrs had passed away?”. Every one of us was there in the situation and you realize being punctual doesn’t mean being productive. NO matter, what your job role is. the more things you do at work, the more your career growth and your job performance. Looks simple right, except you, will end in clutches of distractions every other day. Your productivity in office depends on the work environment around you. It is highly impossible to be productive if there are a lot of distractions around you, which are actually productivity killers. Back in 2008, Dr. J. Taylor coined the term Chronophage, is a part of time management which describes every distraction from your work. Distractions might be controlled or uncontrolled, but knowing about them is a must as you can get rid of most of them. Even worse, multitasking can be considered a form of distraction as your brain can only handle one thing at a time. There is research which states that people spend 4 hours a day on procrastinating. Most people spend only 60% of office hours working or sometimes even less. having a big number of distractions will kill your productivity, creativity and also you might face the problem of absent-mindedness. The most common distractions for productivity are emails, coffee breaks, meetings, social media and internet, colleagues, noise and hunger.

There are few ways to eliminate distractions –

  • Stop digital pressures – turn off all your social media notifications. Limit the no of times you check your social media, texts, and emails.
  • Knock out the most dreaded duties first thing in the morning. Have a difficult email you must send? Bills to manage? Need to initiate a difficult conversation? Get it off your to-do list and out of your mind, freeing you to be productive.
  • If your workplace is noisy, use some noise cancellation headphones. Even some instrumental music will help you to concentrate more.
  • Finally telling your colleagues how important your time is. As a result, they will interrupt you less and you can accomplish more.

4. Getting enough sleep

If you have a lot of things to do, there will be times where you have to choose between sleep and completing the task. Some people choose to work over sleep. It will not only affect your productivity but also impacts your health and happiness. According to a research study by Harvard, Multi-tasking leads to 11.3% loss of productivity which is almost equal to $2,200 annually.

The real question here to how to get a good sleep. Well, you can avoid caffeine and reduce intake of alcohol before sleep. Caffeine will keep you awake the entire night, in turn, there will be a loss of productivity at the workplace. Maintaining regular sleep patterns also helps your brain when to be alert and productive. Avoid eating a heavy or large meal before sleep which affects your sleep. Finally, control your light exposure to a minimum before going to sleep. Bright light hinders your body to produce a hormone called Melatonin, which regulates sleep. Melatonin prevents you from a restful night.

Conclusion

Despite our brain likes to do multi-task we need to be able to focus on one thing at a time in order to accomplish goals and increase our productivity. Staying organized at work, minimizing distractions, maintaining a to-do list, getting good sleep will definitely boost your productivity. In beginning handling, one task at a time is difficult, some times you might feel challenging. Once you master this skill, there is much more to gain.

Multitasking divides your attention and leads to confusion and weakened focus.     

Deepak Chopra

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