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Multitasking: 3 Reasons Why It’s Bad

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If you have driven a car while talking on your cell phone or checked emails during a conference call, then you are a multitasker. And while doing more than one thing at a time may seem efficient, the truth is it’s not. Today, we share three reasons why this conclusion holds water.

Recently, posted an article on why you should not multitask. They list several major downfalls to multitasking. All three are listed below with a few highlights from several productivity experts including our very own Robby Slaughter, a principal with AccelaWork.


© Flickr user stoneysteiner

Multitasking makes you less productive

According to the American Psychological Association, dividing your time between several tasks at once can deteriorate your productivity by 40 percent! This sounds like an astronomical number; particularly when you consider how chatting with your coworker as you type out a short email is simple enough in nature. But, truly it boils down to this: productivity isn’t just about getting things done. It’s also about the quality with which the work is completed.

For the productivity experts here at AccelaWork, we believe strongly that defining a job well done means that all assigned projects are given proper attention and full effort. So how can that be accomplished if in the process we are distracting parts of our brains with several other variables?

Multitasking makes you less effective

According to Slaughter:

Multitasking is the worst way to try and get lots of things done. It’s contrary to human psychology. We do best when we concentrate on one task at time. It’s also insulting to the work (and the person who assigned it), because it indicates that task doesn’t deserve our complete attention.

It’s relatively obvious when you think about it: when multitasking on several different projects at one time, it’s impossible for your mind to focus clearly enough on each task to complete it as thoroughly and as well as if you were working on each one separately. Our brains are advanced, but no one can guarantee top quality for any individual project when there are several in the mix.

And allow us to quickly point out that we couldn’t agree more with Slaughter’s acknowledgement that multitasking can be insulting to the work itself. As professionals, we should pride ourselves on the work we produce. But, we must also recognize that’s its not just about a personal pat on the back for a job well done. When projects are assigned, there is importance to them that goes to the heart of the company. So, when you aren’t giving it the due diligence that you should, the project suffers (along with all the variables included in it’s process)

Multitasking can slow down your brain

Just being in the habit of multitasking can set you back even when you’re conscientiously making an effort not to work on more than one thing at a time. In fact, Standford researchers found that the brains of serial multi-taskers work less efficiently even during the times when they are focusing on a single task.

To fight the urge to multitask, redirect your focus, Slaughter says. “Try maximizing your computer windows to hide distractions, putting on headphones (even with no music, just to communicate to others to leave you alone), turning off email pop-ups and setting your phone to do-not disturb. And when you really need to focus, leave your desk and head for a conference room.”

Now that we’ve pointed out why you shouldn’t multitask, it would be unfair of us not to share some advice on how to remedy the habit. Previously on The Methodology Blog, we shared some tips with our readers on how to combat multitasking:

  • Create devoted spaces
  • If you need to focus on just one task, like editing a document or composing a strategy, take only the relevant papers to a conference room. Leave your phone and your laptop at your desk!

  • Manage Distractions
  • If your email inbox distracts you while you are trying to file some paperwork, turn off your monitor. If people walking by your workspace tend to distract you from a phone call, turn to face the other direction. Eliminate the distractions that are the bane of your existence!

  • Ask For Support
  • A handwritten sign on your door, a quick email to your colleagues or even a brief comment in the break room can help to reduce unnecessary interruptions. Let people know you can’t afford to lose focus and you appreciate their help.

  • Take Breaks
  • The best way to work often is to know when you clearly aren’t working. Structure your time so you can get up and take a walk around the building, enjoy a cup of tea, or even stretch on regular intervals.

Consider this advice. And then when you’re done considering (and no sooner), switch to a new task. After all, you can’t do both at once!

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Ashley Lee

Ashley Lee

Ashley has been working with the AccelaWork team since 2008. She is a communications expert with a background in corporate work, and a graduate of the University of Dayton with a degree in Public Relations. She lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her husband and four children. Ashley enjoys jewelry, fashion, and coffee.
Ashley Lee

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