Why Multitasking Isn't Your Most Productive Strategy

by ParentCo. July 25, 2017

young mother is holding a newborn boy in her arms while putting laundry into the washing machine

It’s incredibly difficult to avoid multitasking. Even young kids get caught in the habit. There always seems to be too much to do and too little time to do it. Ironing while watching TV or talking to our kids or partners saves us a lot of time – or so it seems. After observing how common multitasking really is, several researchers sought to find out if multitasking is really as terrible as classical psychology says it is. Participants were asked to perform three tasks at the same time to measure productivity. The study found that although the participants were all able to complete the three tasks, they performed terribly on all of them. The researchers were unable to find even one task in which multitaskers performed better than those who didn't multitask. According to the study, multitasking makes you overall less productive than when you focus on a single activity at a time.

Why multitasking make you less productive

Here are just a few reasons why multitasking hampers productivity:
  • Although the brain can perform multiple tasks, it can only focus on one thing at a time. In other words, when we perform several tasks at the same time, we’re likely to perform them worse than if we focus on one activity at a time.
  • Multitasking keeps you distracted.
  • Multitasking reduces your ability to remember.
  • Multitaskers are worse at switching between tasks.

How to recover from multitasking

Multitasking is linked to time management skills. With that in mind, here are five ways you can end your multitasking ways and boost productivity:

1 | Think of your time as an investment

Lack of time seems to be a problem we all struggle with, yet there are many people with impossible schedules who seem to manage to get more done. Being more aware of where your time goes is the first step if you want to get your time back. We can’t spend our time on everything, just as we can’t spend our time on everyone. Adopting a daily planning ritual can also help in time management. According to one study, reflecting on how you managed your time at the end of each day for 15 minutes is more effective than actually working for 15 more minutes. Analyzing where your time goes and taking the time to organize your day and week can save you a lot of time and reduce the need to multitask. It can also help you determine the activities that are best done in the early morning and those that are best done when the kids go to bed.

2 | Be unapologetic about your to-do list

There are too many distractions, which means that we often focus on the loudest distractions instead of what really needs to be done. Not everything is a priority and not everything requires your attention. Go through your to-do list and only keep the things that really matter.

3 | Simplify, simplify, simplify

There are many ways parents can make things simpler. Taming the toys not only spurs kids’ creativity, it also helps keep the house tidier. According to the authors of the book “Simplicity Parenting”, adopting simple routines such as making meals predictable (e.g., Monday is soup night, Tuesday is pasta night, Wednesday is pizza night, and so on) is less demanding for parents, and the predictability also gives children a sense of stability. Embrace the many situations in which less is more.

4 | Fight distractions

The only way to stay focused is to fight distractions – easier said than done! There’s just too much “interesting stuff” that gets in the way. The first step in fighting distractions is to know what distracts you. Emails? Social media? Calls? Knowing what distracts you most can make it easier to set up strategies to reduce those distractions. For example, switching your phone off or setting aside specific time slots to check your social media accounts can help you get your time back. According to research, social media dependency is one of the biggest distractions out there today. Not all distractions can be prevented, but it's important to remember that not everything requires immediate attention. The key lies in being able to recognize distractions for what they are and to quickly get back to the tasks at hand. Note: It’s much easier to fight distractions when you have an effective to-do list.

5 | Accept imperfection

You can’t get everything done within 24 hours. You just can’t, and you don’t have to. Accept that your house won't be picture perfect everyday. When we strive for perfection, we invite stress and disappointment into our lives. The price to pay for perfection is much too high a price. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”



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