There are a lot of reasons why multitasking is bad. Let’s start with the obvious: You suck at it. If you continue to read you will find out why, and what to do instead.
There is no such thing as a good multitasker
People who think that they are good at multitasking are no different from others when it comes to doing more than one thing at the same time. What these people are good at is to rapidly switch between tasks. With training, you can get better at switching between tasks, but the only thing you will improve is the ability to switch.
Why multitasking is bad
I have to say that what I found during my research for this blog post scared me. Multitasking is bad on so many levels, it reduces the quality of your work and your personal well being. The long-term effects on your career and personal life may be irreversible. If you are multitasking because you want to be more productive, you should know that the effect is negative. Multitasking causes loss of productivity.
Multitasking makes you slower
Given the fact that you are switching between different tasks, you are losing time by having to get into the task every time you switch. Even mundane tasks like driving and talking on the phone take longer time if combined. According to a study by the University of Utah, drivers who talk on cell phones drive slower on the freeway, pass sluggish vehicles less often and take longer to complete their trips.
Multitasking increases stress levels and makes you prone to errors
The rapid change between tasks and the stress of having to change mental focus makes you feel stressed. Stressed people make more errors. When you find that you are making errors, this makes you feel more insecure and less in control, something that in itself leads to more stress.
Multitasking makes you less focused and less conscious
We have all been there; Sitting in a meeting you let your thoughts wander. All of a sudden, you hear your name being mentioned, only to snap back into reality and having to cover up the fact that you were not paying attention.
If you are not really paying attention to what others are saying it’s harder to detect subtle changes in tone or body language. This will, of course, hurt your skills as a negotiator and ultimately your ability to get the results you want. The longterm effect of this could end up hurting your career.
Multitasking makes it harder to remember and learn new skills
Have you ever tried to read a book and to watch television at the same time, only to feel that you have done neither?
Today, the workplace is a place of constant change, making it extremely important to adapt and learn new skills. The result of this is that trying to be more productive by multitasking may make you less able to be productive in the future.
Multitasking is bad for your personal life
By now it should be clear that extensive multitasking reduces your productivity and the quality of your work. It makes it harder to reach the wanted outcome of a negotiation and thereby to reach your goals. It also makes you stressed and less attentive to your surroundings. On top of this, it makes it harder to learn and remember.
According to an article in Psychology Today, multitasking shortens your attention span and shrinks working memory capacity. Multitasking is also addictive, it programs the brain to operate in this mode, creating a debilitating thinking habit that is permanent.
I have been there myself; Trying to feign interest in a conversation while your mind is filled with everything that you have to do. Not being able to relax, letting your gaze wander around the room and not paying attention to the person in front of you.
Ask yourself: How does all of the above make you look like as a person? I’ll give you a hint: The phrase “he made me feel like I was the only person in the room” is probably not on the top-ten list when other people are talking about you.
The value of focused work
According to an article from American Psychological Association, multitasking can lead to a 40% loss of productivity. In other words, the productivity gained just by concentrating on one or maybe two tasks at a time should lead to a significant reduction in cost.
Besides the financial benefits of singletasking, there are multiple personal benefits. Remember how good it feels to tick off an item on your todo list? By doing one thing at a time you will be able to tick things off your list at a greater pace.
Completing a task leads to a feeling of accomplishment and mastery. When you feel productive you also get more done because you will be attacking the next item on your list with a can-do attitude.
When only focusing on doing one thing, you will more easily remember details that need to be done in the next step. Fewer interruptions mean better overall quality delivered in a shorter time.
How to get better at focusing
The easiest way to focus better is to remove distractions. If your computer, smartphone, and smartwatch constantly vibrate and pings, this is the place to start. Email and social media notifications should be the first thing you turn off. The only thing that should warrant a notification is a calendar event. This way, you can work without having to think about your next meeting.
Find what works for you
We are all different, but some things are universal: Avoid distractions. Close your email, browser, and anything else you don’t need to get your task done. Depending on your personal preferences you can put on your headphones to enjoy some music, or maybe find somewhere quiet. I have written a blog post about how to improve productivity by making room in your life for concentrated work.
The Pomodoro method
Many people who struggle with concentration or focus find that the Pomodoro method can help them concentrate. You can read more about this in the blog post below.
If you still think that multitasking is a good thing, I suggest reading this blog post one more time. This time, without trying to do something else while you are reading.