Deep down we all know why multitasking doesn’t work. It makes life chaotic by juggling multiple tasks at a time, yet we don’t seem to stop. But science has proven that it only pulls you backward with decreasing productivity and more errors.
Multitasking has become a buzzword in the world of productivity. You must have heard people boast about how good they are at multitasking, believing that this ability helps them achieve more. The deadlines, the implicit promises to do more in less time, the feeling to be appreciated for it, all these give you a false satisfaction when in reality it’s just you running out of your capacity to work more and ending up with burnout.
Multitasking is possible and many people are proudly wearing it as a badge of honor but at what cost?
People driven to work more and deliver out of their proportions are trapped to believe that they are better at what they do than anybody else. When in reality, the only person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday.
Today, in this blog I am sharing what is wrong with being a multitasker and why it shouldn’t be a topic to boast about. Together, we’ll understand why multitasking doesn’t work and how you can stop practicing it.
Why Multitasking doesn’t work? 5 Strong Reasons + 9 Simple Tips to Stop
The race to be better and do more has led people to believe that multitasking is a reliable solution when in reality it’s the beginning of a much greater problem. There are many logical reasons why multitasking doesn’t work, but first, let’s understand how it all began.
The myth of multitasking
You may believe multitasking is about doing multiple tasks simultaneously, but that’s not true. Multitasking refers to the ability to switch between tasks quickly, which leads to decreased efficiency and increased stress levels.
What is multitasking?
Multitasking is the process of performing several tasks at the same time, often switching between them rapidly. Some examples are listening to music while working on a project, texting while driving, or answering emails during a meeting.
While multitasking might seem like a time-saver, it is the total opposite of that. It screws your productivity and consistent flow of work. When you switch between tasks, your brain has to expend energy to refocus on the new task at hand. This can lead to mental fatigue and poor performance.
The Origin of the multitasking myth
The myth of multitasking started in the early 2000s when people believed that having the ability to multitask was a valuable skill. But, research has proven otherwise.
In fact, studies have found that multitasking can lead to a decrease in overall cognitive ability. When you try to do too many things at once, your brain gets overwhelmed. You are unable to perform any of the tasks which would not have been the case if you focused on them individually.
Another reason why multitasking doesn’t work is because it also leads to mistakes and errors. When you are juggling multiple tasks, it’s easy to overlook important details or make careless mistakes. This can be especially dangerous or fatal when it comes to activities like driving or operating heavy machinery.
So, while multitasking might seem like a valuable skill, it’s important to remember that it can actually be detrimental to your overall performance and wellbeing. Instead, it’s better to focus on one task at a time and give it your full attention.
This shows that multitasking is not only ineffective, but it’s also harmful. Thus, here are 5 reasons why multitasking doesn’t work.
Why multitasking doesn’t work? 5 Reasons You Should Know
1. Decreased productivity
One of the biggest reasons why multitasking doesn’t work is that it leads to reduced productivity. While it may seem like you’re getting more done by juggling multiple tasks at once, in reality, you’re not able to give your full attention to any one task, which ultimately leads to a decrease in overall productivity. Research shows that human brains are not designed to multitask, instead of increasing your productivity (which people usually believe) it actually slows you down.
Switching between tasks takes time and energy, leading to decreased efficiency in completing each task. Every time you switch tasks, you lose time as you adjust to the new task, leading to a decrease in productivity. This is because your brains need time to refocus and get back into the groove of a new task, which can take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.
Also, the more complex the task, the longer it takes for your brain to fully refocus. So, if you’re constantly switching between complex tasks, you’re likely to experience even greater decreases in productivity.
2. The Impact on work quality
When you focus on multiple tasks, it’s easy to overlook mistakes or miss important details because it temporarily declines your cognitive efficiency to 5 to 15%. This can lead to poor work quality and even bigger problems down the line. For example, if a surgeon is multitasking during a procedure, they may accidentally overlook a critical step or make a mistake that could have serious consequences for the patient.
When I try to write multiple content pieces at once, I end up missing important details. Sometimes, I even mess up the complete development of my ideas because I wasn’t fully present at the moment to focus on them. This has led to low-quality content that doesn’t meet the needs of their audience. And obviously, I had to go back and redo the entire thing from scratch which also leads to poor time management.
Thus, the impact on work quality is a serious reason why multitasking doesn’t work. It ultimately harms your reputation and leads to negative consequences for you and others.
3. Increased stress levels
Another reason why multitasking is ineffective is that it increases your stress levels.
When you multitask, your brain is forced to rapidly switch between different tasks, leading to mental exhaustion and burnout. This can cause anxiety, impatience, increased stress levels, and even depression in some people.
The physical symptoms of stress can be just as harmful as the mental ones. Increased stress levels can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions in the long run.
In addition, stress can also have an impact on your immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses and infections. This is because stress causes your body to release cortisol, which can suppress your immune system.
4. Reduced focus and concentration
Multitasking also decreases your focus and concentration. It’s easy to fall into the trap of multitasking, especially in today’s fast-paced world. You might often feel like you need to do everything at once to keep up with the demands of your work and life. But, that does more harm than good to you.
Your attention is focused on one thing at a time, and with every task you switch to, you lose that focus. This leads to difficulty focusing on one task for long periods, reducing your overall efficiency to complete that task.
For example, if you’re trying to write an important email while also responding to instant messages and checking social media, you’re likely to make more mistakes and take longer to complete the email than if you had focused on it exclusively.
When you engage in multitasking regularly, your brain becomes accustomed to constant stimulation, making it more difficult to concentrate on one thing at a time in the future.
Another notable reason why multitasking doesn’t work is because it negatively impacts your ability to learn. When you try to do too many things at once, you don’t give your brain the chance to fully process and remember what you’re doing. So, while it may seem like multitasking is helping you get more work done, in reality, it’s hindering your momentum of work and long-term focus.
5. Memory impairment
Multitasking can also have adverse effects on your memory. While it may seem like you’re working faster by doing multiple things at once, instead it hinders your ability to retain information and recall it later on.
When you switch between tasks regularly, it can be difficult to keep information in your short-term memory. For example, if you are trying to write an email while also having a conversation with a colleague, you may find it hard to remember the details of the conversation or the points you wanted to make in the email. This affects the speed and accuracy of your work and leads to more errors.
Also, constantly switching between tasks can lead to weaker brain health, making it even harder to remember important information. This can be especially problematic in high-pressure situations such as exams or important presentations.
Over time, why multitasking doesn’t work because it can also have long-term consequences on your memory. Studies show that constant overstimulation can lead to a decrease in brain size, affecting your ability to remember information in the long run.
Additionally, it also decreases your brain’s ability to form new memories. This is because your brain needs time to process and consolidate information to store it in long-term memory. When you are constantly juggling between tasks, your brain does not have the necessary time to properly encode and store information, leading to difficulty in recalling it later on.
Why multitasking doesn’t work? 9 Strategies to stop multitasking
It is important to recognize all these negative effects of multitasking. While learning to live in the moment and focus on one thing at a time is a difficult practice to develop, it is significant if you want to learn how to stop multitasking. Only then you can take steps to minimize it in your daily life.
Here are 9 simple strategies that will strengthen your understanding of why multitasking doesn’t work and how you can save yourself from falling for it:
1. Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning
Are you guilty of checking your phone first thing in the morning? While you may think a glance doesn’t do much, it has a severe impact on your productivity. Using your phone first thing in the morning puts your mind in a reactive state. It is important to give yourself and your brain some time to properly wake up and soak the day. Instead of giving in to the information and getting on alert mode as soon as you are awake, spend that time with yourself doing nothing.
2. Create an everyday worklist
If you have been around on my blog or you follow me on my Instagram or LinkedIn, you know I am a big fan of to-do lists. Planning your day the night before helps you to understand how your day would go. Then you can manage your time and prioritize your tasks according to what’s important and urgent. And if you don’t complete everything on the list, you can always move it to the next day.
3. Eliminate your distractions
With a human attention span of 0.8 seconds, distractions have become a companion to daily life. But instead of contributing to your growth as a true companion does, they are slowly sucking on your productivity. Hence, it is important to weed them out. You can set time aside for distracting tasks like responding to an email or using social media. You can also read this complete guide I wrote on moving from distractions to achievements and improving your focus.
4. Build mindful rituals
Building mindful rituals can help you combat multitasking by training your brain to learn when it’s the time to focus and work on one task. This is as simple as dedicating a specific time to your work. The key is to build consistency and momentum in your workflow by making it a daily practice. For example, these days late afternoons are when I like to work straight for an hour or two. That’s the time when I am doing the deep work required to move the needle in my business.
5. Delegate your work
As we read above, poor productivity is a major reason why multitasking doesn’t work. If you find yourself drowning in work without having any real results, I think it’s time to take some burden off your shoulders.
The right thing to do is find someone to work for. The truth is you cannot do all of it alone. Thus, it is only sensible to delegate tasks to others so you can free up time and focus on tasks that matter. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and sometimes, it’s best to not overthink about your weakness and let the right people handle it while you focus on your strengths and amplify the results from it.
6. Learn to Say No
I believe so many of you need to hear this: saying no doesn’t make you rude or uncivilized. The truth is it can be hard to say no sometimes even when your plate is full but you need to understand that it only delays the important things. Half of the problems you have are because you said “yes” in the first conversation without giving it a second thought. Impulsive decisions are sometimes the easiest way to find yourself in unnecessary situations. Hence, it is important to consider the situation in your favor before your nod a “yes” to it.
7. Keep your surroundings quiet & clean
If you live with a family, I suppose you can already understand the “quiet” part. If you want to stop multitasking, you must be working in a quiet and non-disrupting surrounding to keep you focused on the task. Constant interference by family members during work is a big reason for going back and forth between different tasks. Also, it is equally significant for your surrounding to be clean, especially your place of work. Don’t trash your work desk with unnecessary papers or documents, it only adds to the whole “getting distracted” fiasco.
8. Turn off your notifications
Whether it’s your phone or laptop, make sure you switch off the notifications whenever you’re sitting at work. It’s been almost two years since I have had my notifications off and I cannot even begin to explain how helpful it has been. There is no constant urge to check my social media after every like or comment notification because I don’t see it immediately. I control the time I spend on my gadgets. And yes, it is not at all easy to break free from that addiction but the least you can do is try. I am trying it every day and this one change has been an incredible help.
9. Cultivate self-awareness & take rest
Yes, I saved the best for the last. Sometimes the real reason why multitasking doesn’t work is because you have loaded yourself with bad habits and no rest at all. Irrespective of who you blame for your wrongs, deep down you know whether it’s them or you in reality. The first step in changing something about yourself is to be aware of it, that is how you build a relationship with yourself. If you find yourself going back to multitasking, maybe it’s time to take a step back and give yourself the much-needed rest. Take this time to pause and identify any patterns in your work process which are holding you back from improvement.
To conclude, multitasking is an ineffective way to get more done. If at all anything, it can have adverse effects on your health and wellbeing. Instead of juggling multiple tasks, learn to focus on one task at a time.
And along with everything you read above, the key to understanding why multitasking doesn’t work is within you and your daily schedule. Analyze your routine and find the loopholes that are working against you. Give yourselves the time to rest and recharge to maintain your productivity and wellbeing.
Until next time,
See you soon!