August 02, 2014
Multitasking, The Ultimate Productivity Killer
Not only will it make you produce sloppy work, but it actually does damage to things like your memory.
I know we all have a lot to do, and there’s never enough time in the day, but trust me, multitasking is not the answer.
There are other ways for you to be more productive. The two options you have are to delegate work, or prioritize and accept that certain things won’t get done.
Here’s what you need to understand, the mind can only focus on a maximum of 2 things at a time, but really it’s only one thing at a time, so when you think you’re multitasking, what you’re actually doing is context switching, at a rapid pace.
This is so inefficient.
Multitasking actually stresses us out, slows us down, harms our creativity, and distracts us from what we should be doing.
If you’re stressed, here are some relaxation techniques to try at work.
If you want to be more productive at work, trust me, stop multitasking. Here are some reasons why.
1. You Perform Worse
In a 2009 study, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass tested 262 college students to complete experiments that involved switching tasks and using your memory.
The hypothesis that the researcher had was that people that are used to multitasking would perform slightly better than people who weren’t used to multitasking.
He found the opposite.
People who normally multitask failed at all three tasks. The worst part of the experiment was that only one of the three tasks actually involved multitasking, meaning that even when they focus on a single activity, frequent multitaskers use their brains less effectively.
2. You’re Less Productive
In a study done in 2001, researchers found that participants lost significant amounts of time as they switched between multiple tasks and lost even more time as the tasks became increasingly complex.
According to the researcher:
Meyer suggests that productivity can be reduced by as much as 40 percent by the mental blocks created when people switch tasks.
3. You Produce Less Work
Researchers from George Mason University in Washington wanted to see how much interruptions affect working ability.
The researchers asked the participants to write essays based on random topics and put them in two groups; one that was interrupted multiple times with an unrelated task and the other, which experienced no interruptions.
Findings revealed that those in the group that experienced frequent interruptions typically scored lower regarding the quality and composure of their writing than those who did not deal with any interruptions. Researchers concluded that participants who were interrupted during the writing phase also wrote significantly fewer words than those in the control group.
So what do we do about all of this?
Timebox Your Tasks
There are a few different ideas here, but it honestly doesn’t matter which one you pick.
The point here is to do what’s called timeboxing, where you only work on one task for a set period of time.
I suppose it’s up to you to decide how much time that is, but remember that the brain can only handle so much at a time.
Also, remember that we have finite amounts of energy, and it gets depleted pretty easily.
1. The Pomodoro Technique
I’ve written about this a few times before, but the point of this is to focus on one single task for 25 minutes. That’s the timebox.
For 25 minutes you work on only one thing, and try your best to remove all distractions. Turn off your email, close Facebook, phone on silent.
2. The Ultradian Rhythm
This one is similar to the pomodoro technique, but instead of focusing for 25 minutes, you focus for 90 minutes.
This concept was popularized by Tony Schwartz, an expert on managing our energy levels, but this goes back even further.
More than 50 years ago, a sleep researcher named Nathan Kleitman discovered that at night when we sleep, we go through a period of light to deep, then back to light. This process takes 90 minutes.
He later discovered, that our bodies operate by the same 90 minute rhythm during the day.
When we’re awake, the movement is from higher to lower alertness. This is what’s known as our “ultradian rhythm.”
This article appeared on B2C July 24 2014 and was written by Jacob Shriar.
About Jacob Shriar
Jacob is the Growth Manager of Officevibe, an employee engagement platform. When he’s not reinventing the world over a glass of scotch, he likes to find new skills to learn.