Have you bought-in to one of the most prevalent, yet productivity-destroying myths in business today?
Myth - Multitasking Increases Productivity
You've seen it all around you and have probably done it yourself dozens of times today. What I am talking about is using your phone or computer to check into email or social media:
- First thing in the morning
- As soon as you get to your desk
- In the minutes between meetings
- In meetings
- As you walk down the hall
- When stopped at a stop-light
- In the middle of a conversation with somebody
- At the dinner table
- Before you go to bed
- 157 other times throughout the day!
If any of the above sounds like you or "a friend of yours," then I suggest you read on.
Reasons to Stop Multitasking
1. You are letting others dictate your agenda
When you are constantly reviewing communications from others and feeling compelled to respond right away, you let others dictate what you do. Given the fact that their priorities will almost always be different than yours, that means you are taking time away from the things that important to your success, to work on the things that are important to theirs. While this is certainly very nice of you, could this be why you hit the end of many workweeks wondering why you didn't make much progress against key projects, why you didn't take to time to think and update your strategic plan and why your career and personal development is not progressing as fast as you'd like? If it might be, perhaps you should focus on important projects first and limit electronic and other interruptions while you do.
2. It makes you mistake prone
We've all fired off the email that we wish we could recall, said something we wish we hadn't or made a computational error we regret. Odds are good that some form of distraction contributed to the problem. Research recently done at Michigan State University discovered that we are 2-3X more likely to make a mistake following a distraction of only a few seconds. Does that sound like the kind of quick distraction that might occur if you take a quick peek at an email or check out what Aunt Flo's cat is doing on Facebook? To reduce your likelihood of making mistakes, perhaps you should consider focusing on one thing at a time.
3. It's actually productivity destroying
The problem you are trying to solve with multitasking, is actually causing the problem you are trying to solve. If you are trying to be more productive by multitasking, you should probably know that multitasking is actually reducing your productivity. It's been researched and well proven that doing two things at once is detrimental to your ability to focus - think cell phone talking and driving for example. The same is true for business tasks. Our brains are incapable of performing higher-level functions while distracted, so if your work involves problem solving or creativity of any kind, you might want to seriously consider focusing on the job at hand.
Why You Probably Won't Stop Multitasking
Most people are so bought-in to the multitasking myth that they truly believe that such behavior helps them, even when it is proven to hurt. Others say that if they don't check-in 100 times a day that their bosses, customers and employees wouldn't be able to function or get what they want when they want, even when the truth is that most people are far more reasonable than that. Whatever your excuse is, if you are not achieving what you want to achieve, in the time you want to achieve it, you might want to look to yourself and your working habits to find a solution. Increased focus just might be a great solution!
Why You Probably Should Stop Multitasking
Most of the people I work with in my coaching practice, who challenge their buy-in to the multitasking myth and make changes, find that they:
- Accomplish far more
- Work with far less stress
- Do higher quality work
- Do a better job of serving their bosses, customers and employees.
I encourage you to give focus a try!