Multi-tasking has always been hailed as the holy grail of skills. The ability to work on multiple projects at once and have them all come out perfect…who wouldn’t want their employees or themselves to possess such a skill? But here’s the thing–multitasking doesn’t work.
Research shows that it’s not as efficient as we like to believe and can actually be harmful to our health. In short, multitasking is a myth. Thankfully, there are better options out there to boost your productivity.
Why Multi-tasking Doesn’t Work
People seemingly multi-task every day. We send emails, texts and answer phone calls while simultaneously picking up our dry cleaning and ordering coffee at Starbucks. But chances are you’re not doing all these things well.
Your texts and emails likely had a few typos. You can’t remember the phone conversation you just had and forgot to ask the barista at Starbucks to use Almond milk instead of whole milk. You got everything done but you got it done wrong.
So, yes, multi-tasking in and of itself is not a myth, but the way it’s explained and the idea behind it, is. In short, multitasking doesn’t work
“What you call multitasking is really task-switching”, says Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries. “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” he says.
“It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, […].” Moving back and forth between several tasks (multi-tasking) actually wastes productivity because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.
Why Task-Switching Works
Task-switching is the art of doing tasks in batches. Let’s say you have ten bills to pay, five emails to send, and six phone calls to make before the day is over. If you decide to tackle these tasks by multitasking, it would look something like paying one bill, then sending one email, and then making one phone call until all your tasks are done.
This is NOT productive, and as we mentioned earlier, it’s very unhealthy. This is because multitasking put your body on perpetual “high-alert”, which increases your heart rate and leads to stress.
How “batching” works
What tends to work better and save the most time is to do things in batches. Pay your bills all at once, then send your emails all at once and then make all your phone calls at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in the zone you should stay there and finish.
Task-switching is rapidly replacing multitasking and both employers and employees are seeing an increase in productivity. It’s so popular, that task-batching gadgets and apps like Saent have been created to aid in this productivity boosting .
Saent is smart button and app that schedules batching sessions and blocks distractions (like incoming texts, phone calls and access to social media apps) during that session.
But, while task-switching is a much better alternative to multi-tasking, even it can be overdone. Avoid trying to tackle too many batches at once. Set a goal for yourself for each day and focus on reaching only those things.
If you want to do more with less stress…understand that multitasking doesn’t work. It’s not conducive to productivity and can lead to health issue. Task-batch instead and watch a happier, healthier more productive you emerge.
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