Multitasking = 50% slower; 50% more errors

Is multi-tasking really effective?  According to John Medina, developmental biologist and author of Brain Rules, multi-tasking is the most ineffective way to work, as your brain needs to ‘disconnect’ from one activity, to ‘connect’ to another.  Every time you change your focus, say from reading to checking your emails, it takes you about a second to re-adjust for simple tasks, but it can take much longer for more complex work.  How effective is this?  Apparently, multi-tasking for anything more complex than chewing gum and breathing slows you down 50%, and increases errors by 50%.  Pretty abysmal.

But multi-tasking lures people into feeling more productive.  It’s easy, because you feel you can do more by being busier – everything seems to be done at high speed as you “master” focusing on multiple tasks.

Multi-tasking substitutes flutter and fluff for accomplishing – You feel “faster” multi-tasking because you are revved up.  You flutter, but don’t accomplish much.  You may see your emails right away, but it doesn’t mean you are doing what’s important.

Multi-tasking is addictive.  Multi-tasking is entertaining – so entertaining that you never feel bored or empty or alone or not accomplishing much. It creates the false belief that you are more effective by doing two (or three or four) things at once: eating and watching the news; emailing and texting; texting as you help your kids do homework.  And this is both a lure and a stress.

Unable to focus for long?  Multi-tasking gets you in the habit of being distracted, to let yourself be interrupted, so it becomes difficult to keep your mind focused on just ONE task.  Ever felt that you are being pulled in a thousand directions?  You need more focus.

Multi-tasking takes you AWAY from being here, now:  You’re having drinks with a friend yet texting another.  At home, you’re checking your emails instead of being present to your kids or friends. You’re eating mindlessly as you watch a movie.  You are not here, nor there.  So… Where ARE YOU?

Stand up and take a 2-minute break from whatever you were doing.  Ask yourself…

Why do you multitask?  Are you multitasking because there is just too much on your plate, each and every day?  Are you simply multitasking because it’s fun, or because everyone does it, or because it looks good and productive…?  Be aware, multi-tasking makes you stressed and overwhelmed, but doesn’t make you get to the bottom of your to-do list.

Some things you CAN do:

  • Plan your days for YOUR priorities – identify, every day what is essential for your work and life priorities.  And don’t let work crowd your life
  • Assign a specific amount of focused time for the task at hand, based on its importance – give yourself clear, reasonable time limits; complete it and move on
  • Batch your emails – Instead of checking your emails as they come in, batch them up so you look at them, say, three or four times a day.  The world won’t collapse.
  • Train your colleagues to stop interrupting you – place a sign on your door or on a chair across your cubicle that say “Silent work between 930 and 1030am this morning.  Please don’t interrupt.  Email me and I’ll get back to you. Thank you”
  • Turn off your iPhone or BB when you are having a fun or relaxing time.  Turn it off after work.  Even if you have to check it once during the evening, instead of interrupting what should be your own time.  Allow yourself real time OFF, to rest, to have fun.

Feel FREE, EFFECTIVE and RELAXED – Decreasing the amount of multitasking you do every day will make you feel more relaxed, more in control of your work and life – and maintain your brain power and your energy for what counts for you.  Build more focused, mindful time, and within a few days, you will feel so much happier…


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