Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down; in fact one study claims it’s by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.
You might think you’re different, that you’ve done it so much you’ve become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that.
But you’d be wrong. Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, doesn’t make perfect.
Productivity Benefits of Not Multitasking:
Properly Engaged ~ If you shut off your cell phone you’ll find yourself much more deeply engaged and present with the person your talking with, whether it’s a client, direct report, or your children. Everytime you check your email or that text, even for a short moment you’re disengage with the individual right in front of you and you’ll need to properly reengage when you’re done looking at the email or text.
Breakthroughs ~ You’ll make significant progress on challenging projects, with regards to writing and strategizing; the kind that require thought and persistence. When you decided not to multitask you’ll be forced to stay with each project when it gets hard, ergo experience a number of breakthroughs.
Stress ~ Research typically shows that multitasking isn’t just inefficient, it’s stressful. You’ll find it a relief to do only one thing at a time. You’ll feel liberated from the strain of keeping so many balls in the air at each moment. It will feel reassuring to finish one thing before going to the next.
Time Management ~ You’ll gain a true appreciation of time management, which in turn will allow you to prioritize better. You’ll lose patience for things that weren’t good for your time and have tremendous patience for things that were useful and beneficial. A meandering pointless conversation was excruciating. You’ll became laser-focused on getting things done. Since I wasn’t doing anything else, I got bored much more quickly. I had no tolerance for wasted time.
There isn’t a downside to deciding to stop multitasking…
No projects were left unfinished. No one will become frustrated with you for not answering a call or failing to return an email the second I received it. When you decide to no longer multitask, you become a more efficient manager and leader.