The myth of multitasking: How to actually get more done
Have you ever found yourself switching between a couple of hovering browser tabs, trying to edit files? Or sitting at a meeting and arranging your docs at the same time? This is called multitasking or trying to do multiple things at once.
Though it may seem like a great working technique, multitasking can cause many negative effects, from decreased productivity to complete mental burnout. Research from Science.org found that multitasking splits the brain and makes people more prone to making mistakes. Plus, it can even lower your IQ!
In this article, we’ll overview some basic myths of multitasking and recommend techniques to help you achieve more without the need to switch between tasks.
Multitasking myths debunked
Multitasking has long been believed to be completely ok in working routines. We’ll debunk this belief, one myth at a time:
Myth #1. Multitasking increases productivity
Remember how you scheduled a meeting for the wrong time or gave a file the wrong name? That’s perhaps because you were trying to multitask. Multitasking can cause what is called switch costs — or a reduction in performance accuracy or speed. This, in turn, causes more mistakes and actually slows you down as you work.
Myth #2 Multitasking does no harm to your brain and mental health
It’s easy to get into the habit of multitasking, but what exactly is multitasking doing to your brain? Research by the University of London found that multitaskers showed a decline in their IQ — the same as with people who spend a sleepless night.
As you try to switch between tasks, you also get increased anxiety as you need to constantly check things and redo stuff. Multitasking might also have a negative impact on your short-term memory, and the ability to think clearly and creatively. This can lead to complete mental burnout.
Myth #3. Multitasking is better than a state of flow
Multitasking actually gets you out of the state of flow — that is, a state of constant ideation and concentration on one thing. Many entrepreneurs say they feel more tuned in and more productive when they are in a state of flow.
How to stop multitasking and get more things done
As you see, multitasking is not the greatest strategy to go for at work. Now, what are the powerful techniques that will help you stop multitasking? Let’s talk about 9 proven ways to quit switching between tasks and stay productive:
1. Make a list of what you need to do
Lists work and we mean it. The path to being more productive starts with knowing exactly what you need to achieve. Here, you want to have a detailed to-do list for a time period — be it a day, week, or even better, a month. This way, you’ll get a clear picture of your schedule and will be able to prioritize tasks and plan your time accordingly.
Imagine the feeling of fulfillment you’ll get once you cross out a task or two from your to-do list…
Wondering how to arrange your plan? Choose among these VistaCreate templates to craft your daily to-do list.
2. Set one priority task per day
Having written a plan, start prioritizing. Choose one anchor task that you’ll aim to achieve in a day. This could be getting a sales report ready, having a team-building via Zoom, or onboarding a new employee. With that, you’ll be able to plan the rest of your task around this major one. The same can be done for a week or a month.
Quick tip: write the name of the task in capital letters at the top of your list, and choose a different color for it. This will make it easier for you to concentrate on your key goal.
3. Try timeboxing
Timeboxing is quite simple: as you get down to work, you estimate how long it will take to complete a certain task. Then, try to work solely on it without any distractions.
Say, you take 20 minutes to finish your design project. Focus on it and start the next one once you’ve completed the task. This way, your brain will know the exact time frame for task completion, and will try to fit in the given time.
For other techniques, check out some more time management tips we previously covered.
4. Remove distractions
We’ve all been there: you get down to work, open your target tab, and then… Your emails want to get your attention, people are calling to get your advice, and apps are bombarding you with notifications. The only way to productivity here is to remove distractions — put your phone on the mute and disable notifications.
We know this may seem horrifying, but don’t worry. You can always make yourself available to calls from your priority list, while everyone else can wait.
5. Schedule timeblocks
Try scheduling time blocks for certain groups of tasks you need to complete. For example, you can allocate two hours for working on your next designs, editing previous ones, and uploading them to your social media.
This technique is quite similar to timeboxing, and you can shift between those two to see which works best for you.
6. Take breaks, even short ones
In your daily plan, make sure you allocate some time to rest. As you relax, your brain gets to refocus, your body recharges, and you are set to become more productive as you get down to work again. In fact, many people say their best ideas come when they are doing something completely outside of their working routine.
In planning your rest hours, include the activities you love most. This could be watching a new movie premiere, devoting some time to your family, or simply going out for a walk in nature. Plan to have a 10-minute break for every hour you’re working — this will surely be rewarding for your brain’s effectiveness.
7. Delegate and say no
A good “no” is, perhaps, one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal. Now, you can’t always agree to everything people ask you for. Make sure you learn to prioritize and decline if something is out of your plan. Or if you’re just too tired.
More to that, learn to delegate. Is there a way to distribute the work for a big project between your employees? If so, go for it.
8. Arrange a proper working environment
Your working environment matters. As you get down to work, get comfy. Choose a good table for work, turn on some music for productivity, and get things done. If you’re working at the office, look for a place with no distractions. This could be a separate Skype room that provides for a quiet environment. If you’re at a coworking space, get yourself nice headphones to leave all noise aside.
Meditation is a proven way to increase your ability to focus and reduce work-related anxiety. We are 100% meditation advocates. Next time you’re having a break from work, try to devote 10-15 minutes to meditation. Sit in a calm place, breathe naturally, and try to stay focused on your thoughts and feelings. Once you’ve stopped meditating, you are sure to get a clearer mind, which will add to your productivity.
Multitasking does more harm than good to your working routine. It is something that is known to decrease productivity, cause anxiety issues, and even complete mental burnout. To avoid multitasking and get more things done in an effective way, we recommend you follow these steps:
- Plan your day, week, and month
- Set one anchor task per day and center your schedule around it
- Try timeboxing and time blocking to allocate certain amounts of time to your tasks
- Get proper rest so you have enough energy for your further accomplishments
- Arrange a work-enhancing environment that will allow you to focus
- Learn to delegate and say “no” to things you don’t want to do or don’t have time for
- Meditate, as it helps achieve a clearer mind