16 reasons multi-tasking is killing your productivity
We all love to multi-task – busy lifestyles demand it! Checking your email whilst talking on the phone, making dinner whilst drafting an email to a client, ticking off your to-do list whilst you simultaneously eat lunch with one hand and field calls with the other – sound anything like your average Monday at work? Whilst multi-tasking may seem like a great way to pack more into your day – after all, how else are you supposed to get EVERYTHING done between 9 and 5 – it can actually be counter-productive. What's that, you say, it doesn't actually work?! Well, it can do, but it can also kill your productivity and make you lose focus; when you're focusing on twenty things at once rather than just the most important thing, something's got to give.
We think multi-tasking is the enemy of productivity, and we're not all talk, in fact, we've come up with 16 reasons why. Get reading, and banish multi-tasking from your morning!
#1. It's distracting
Ever tried to draft an email to a client whilst checking text messages on your phone? When you re-read what you've written, chances are it's not as good as it could be. Trying to field calls or texts whilst working is a bad idea, because you'll inevitable be distracted from the task at hand. Next time your phone rings, switch it to silent. Focus on what you're doing, right now, and you'll find you actually get more done, and make less mistakes.
#2. It gives you indigestion
Chowing down on a bowl of healthy granola whilst taking calls from clients is a bad idea. Did you hear us? No multi-tasking whilst eating. Research has shown that focusing on our food helps us to feel fuller and satisfied for longer, so you're less likely to reach for the biscuit tin mid-morning. Sit down and enjoy your food, even if you only have ten minutes. Switch your phone onto silent and relish the taste of your protein-packed breakfast or healthy lunch.
#3. It means you never switch off
If you're guilty of always being on-the-go, it could be time to take a step back and evaluate whether this is actually making you more, or less, productive. When you finish work, are you always checking your email, social media, calls or texts? Unless you're working on an urgent project, leave work behind when you close the office door. Switch your phone and laptop off and use your free time to recharge with a workout or spend an hour cooking a healthy dinner. By continuing to multi-task in your free time, you're never enjoying any down time, which can cause stress.
#4. It makes you a poor listener
If you've ever been on the phone with someone who isn't listening, or out for lunch with a friend who spends all their time checking social media, you'll know how rude and annoying it can be. Nobody likes someone who is distracted and doesn't listen, so instead of trying to do everything at once, take the time out to listen to whoever you're speaking to, whether that's a client on the phone,a colleague who needs five minutes of your time, or a friend at lunchtime. If you don't listen properly, you might miss out on important information!
#5. It means you're not focused
Multi-tasking can seem like the best way to tackle a mounting to-do list, but it actually takes your focus away from what's important and means you're left unable to prioritise any of your work. Prioritising what needs to be done is an important part of your day, and if your focus is divided across a number of areas, you won't be able to give any of them your full attention. It's far better to create a 'to-do' list and tick items off as you go. Of course, there will be priority tasks that need your attention, but you may find there are things that can wait until later or be postponed for a quieter moment.
#6. It causes stress
Our brains are designed to focus on one, or maybe two things at a time. When you try to do lots of different things at once, it can leave you feeling frazzled. You might end up snapping at work colleagues or your partner, or making yourself feel ill. Stress is a serious condition which can lead to hair loss, insomnia and other conditions, so don't cause yourself unnecessary stress. If you don't have time to complete a task or are worried about meeting deadlines, communicate with your manager or client to let them know. Most people are only too happy to grant you a deadline extension, provided you have given them plenty of notice.
#7. It makes you appear sidetracked
We all work with at least one person who seems a bit 'scatty' – you know, the woman in your office who is always messing things up and dashing from A to B without any focus. If you don't want to come across as unfocused, you need to slow things down a bit. Instead of trying to work on dozens of things at once, prioritise your workload and communicate clearly with colleagues – delegate work to them or ask them to help you out if needed.
#8. It creates clutter
A tidy workspace equals a tidy mind – or something like that. Working amongst piles of clutter isn't any good for productivity levels, and by multi-tasking, you're more likely to have work piling up around you. Keeping your workspace a clutter-free zone can help you to feel like you're on top of things, not to mention you'll have more time to stay organised if you aren't tackling everything at once.
#9. It makes it harder to take a break
Regular breaks are essential for productivity. Taking short breaks can help you to feel less stressed and more focused – just five minutes away from your computer can make all the difference. If you plan out your day with your priority tasks, fitting in space for short breaks should be easier. When multi-tasking, it can sometimes seem like there is a never-ending stream of work, and that breaks are impossible!
#10. It's not effective
Did you know that only 2% of people can actually multi-task properly? So that's 98% of us who are just wasting our time and causing ourselves unnecessary stress by trying to multi-task. Many people say men can't multi-task – whilst we're not making any gender statements here, maybe it's just that men prefer to focus on the task in hand and complete that before moving onto the next thing.
#11. It's rude
Enjoying dinner or lunch with friends when they're texting on their smartphones, checking social media or responding to emails is hard. It's rude. Just as taking out a book and reading during lunch with others would be considered rude, so is using your phone; yet so many of us seem to think it's okay! Unless you have an actual emergency – in which case you should excuse yourself to take a call/reply to a text or email – then your focus should be on your food and your company. Nobody is so busy that they can't take 30 minutes off to eat!
#12. It's overwhelming your brain
Did you know that when your brain has to process too much information, it may get overwhelmed? Loading your brain with multiple tasks at once can cause a 'bottleneck' effect, which simply leads to you feeling more stressed. The more stressed you get, the less able you are to work efficiently and process new information. Your brain is designed to focus on one things at a time in order to get things done – so give it what it wants. Make a list and work your way down it rather than aimlessly jumping from one thing to the next.
#13. It gives you insomnia
Our addiction to smartphones and tablets has created a whole new generation of insomniacs. The blue light emitted by smartphone and tablet screens can actually fool your body into thinking it's daytime. So texting, emailing or checking social media in bed could actually be harming your health. Bed time is for sleeping or reading, which can help you to unwind. Try to set aside a gadget-free hour before bedtime when you avoid your smartphone, tablet and PC; this will make it easier to drift off into a sound sleep.
#14. It creates bad habits
You might think that multi-tasking at work is no bad thing; it's not as if you spend every second of every day doing it. However, research shows that those who regularly multi-task are more likely to be distracted and unable to concentrate in other situations. Multi-tasking at work could actually harm your personal life, leaving you side-tracked and forgetful. It's not natural for our brains to hop from one thing to the next, and you could be setting yourself up for a bad habit!
#15. It makes work seem never-ending
If you're spending all your time multi-tasking, at home and at work, it can seem like there is always a huge list of things to do. Maybe you are extremely busy, with lots on the go, but prioritising is key to organising your life, rather than multi-tasking. Set yourself deadlines, make lists and get on top of your work step by step; don't try to fit more into a day than is realistically possible. Work life balance is important!
#16. It makes you unhappy
Did you know that the happiest people are those who live in the moment? Focusing completely on whatever it is you're doing, whether that's watching a film with your partner or listening at an important board meeting, makes you happier. When you're in the moment, you're not stressing about what hasn't been done, what needs to be done and how well you've done things. You're there, focused on the task at hand. In your personal life, this will make you more 'present' to your partner and friends, and you'll have more fun. At work, living in the moment means you won't miss out on important information or fail to notice the subtle change in mood of a team member.
Multi-tasking is most definitely killing your productivity, and it can be a hard habit to break. But give it a try, for one week, and see how you like it. We practically guarantee you'll be happier, healthier and more productive!