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Why Multitasking Doesn't Actually Increase Productivity

By Darren Pierce on Nov 25, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Multitasking almost seems like a necessary part of doing business, doesn’t it?

When you wear multiple hats in an organization and have a never-ending to-do list, it may seem inefficient to focus on one task at a time when you could be working on three, right?

But does doing this really increase our daily productivity?

The short answer: no, it doesn’t. And there are a number of reasons why.

Multitasking Isn’t Actually Multitasking

Let’s get this out into the open—we can’t actually multitask. While most people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just “task switching.”

“It’s like a pie chart,” says Guy Winch, PhD and author, “and whatever we’re working on is going to take up a majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.”

Moving back and forth between multiple tasks actually wastes productivity.

It Deadens Your Pace

Focusing on multiple tasks at once doesn’t save you time. In fact, it’ll take you longer to complete two tasks at the same time than it would if you just focused on each one independently.

Completing tasks in batches is actually the most productive way to get a few tasks checked off.  Don’t just respond to an email here and there. Take a half-hour to get them all done, and then move your attention to something else.

You Make More Mistakes

Research shows that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity.

It also leads to an increase in mistakes, which obviously require correction—which takes precious time out of your day.

That doesn’t sound productive.

Mistakes are especially prevalent when two or more tasks require a lot of thought. Trying to complete multiple intellectually demanding tasks increases your stress levels and has the potential to overwhelm you.

There you have it—three solid reasons why multitasking is actually less productive. Now stop eating that sandwich, focus up and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

How do you combat multitasking too much?

Written by Darren Pierce

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