Are you a multitasker? Do you find you have your hand in several different projects at once? If so, you might want to rethink your plan. While many people take pride in their ability to multitask, the truth is, your focus is all over the place.
Multitasking may enable you to work on several projects at once, but that doesn’t mean it’s getting done to the best of your ability.
10 Reasons You Need to Stop Multitasking
- Concentrating on one project at a time actually saves time: Picture this: you’re making breakfast and stop to answer the phone. While on the phone you have an idea for an article you’re writing and jot it down. While writing you forget what you’re talking about and have to ask your client to repeat himself. He’s not happy about that. Your eggs are burning and you have to throw them out and start all over again. By the time you’re off the phone and clean up your burned pan, you forget about your great idea.
- You’re able to devote your complete attention to a single project: When your attention is scattered in different directions, you lose focus. Your work suffers. One project at a time gets your best effort and it shows.
- You’ll make fewer mistakes: Of course you’re making mistakes. You’re not concentrating. You’re thinking of everything you need to do and trying to do it all at once.
- Your clients appreciate when they have your complete focus: Your client are paying for your full attention. If you’re distracted, it shows. If you’re focused it will also show.
- You’ll finish quicker: Doing one project at a time is actually quicker than several projects at once because you’re not stopping every ten minutes to do something else. See one project through at a time and you may not have to keep such late hours.
- You’re more calm when you attention isn’t directed to several different areas: There’s a reason you’re flying off the handle and it’s because you’re overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t be overwhelmed with ten things to do at once? Take a deep breath and tackle one thing and one thing only.
- You’re more productive when you don’t multitask: See time savers above. Concentrating on a single project will allow you to complete it and tackle another and then another. Soon instead of having bits of different things done, you’ll have several complete tasks checked off your list.
- You can’t talk on the phone while typing a document: OK, well maybe you can, but what does it look like when it’s done? Multitasking simply doesn’t work. Multitasking means mistakes.
- Your outlook changes as you cross items off your to do list: When you’re doing a bit of this and a bit of that, you’re not crossing anything off your list. Crossing off items as you complete projects will do wonders for your outlook. All of a sudden things don’t look bleak. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.
- You many find yourself with down time: Guess what happens when you save time? You have time on your hands. You have time to read a good book or watch a movie with your family. You can have a leisurely cup of coffee instead of rushing around. You’re less stressed and more relaxed.
Next up: 10 Ways to Stop Multitasking
There are actual studies that support item No. 1, but I don’t remember where I saw them.
I’ve seen some newspaper articles and a news report against multi-tasking. As someone with ADD, I don’t see anyone can think it’s a good idea.
Adam Wood says
Oddly enough, people who multi-task are actually worse at multi-tasking than people who don’t.
Well there you go. And for some reason that made complete sense.
Thanks for the link, while reading the piece I made coffee and answered a few phone calls.
Amber from Girl with the Red Hair says
I totally agree with this. I’m assuming you mean you need to WORK on one project at a time though, right? Right now I have four projects “on-the-go” but I am focussing on them one at a time and finishing them up before moving onto the next project. The one with the closest deadline gets priority.
I swear multitasking is just a natural tendency of my generation, though, so it’s definitely something I have to WORK AT to NOT multitask!
I do mean work on one project at a time, but I also mean focus on the project and nothing else. Don’t eat lunch or answer calls or watching TV while working. I find that when I’m completely focused on one thing, and one thing only, I’m more productive.
HA! Like NOT multitasking is an option when you’re trying to make a living working with multiple clients AND raise kids AND cook dinner AND take a walk AND connect with friends AND call your dad AND go to choir rehearsal AND carve the pumpkins with the kids AND wash the sheets…
not sure where you guys find the clients willing to wait while you complete multi-day task A and then move on to their concerns!
I’m not sure if this works for you, but my solution was to find blocks of time when I could work undisturbed. When my son was a baby I worked from 4:00 a.m until 7:00 a.m. Now that he’s in school full time, I have that time. I never tried to work when he was awake or in need of my attention.
Adam beat me to the punch on the research. Here are some suggestions for building focus and flow. (It takes five to ten minutes of uninterrupted work for most people to get into a state of flow.)
1. Close FaceBook,Twitter, and email. (Duh!). Check email and your feeds after you’ve finished something.
2. Turn OFF the cell phone and or put it on vibrate in another room. Check the message every few hours. The world will not end.
3. Keep a master list of things that you need to do. Add things to the list as soon as you think of them. Then forget about them until you’re looking for another task. (If you need help with this see the book “Getting Things Done.”)
4. Have a dedicated work environment and keep it simple.
5. Take your Ritalin :).
Nice tips, Chris. Especially #5.
I didn’t know Ritalin was an option. *snaps* Shoot. Here I’ve been trying to focus on me own this whole time. 😉
Caron Margarete says
Multitasking is the way of life for all of us now; unitasking may make sense but it is not practical.
We no longer get a choice to turn our lives off, no one around us will be doing it and so if we begin to we will be disrupting their system, in turn creating more chaos.
The trick is not to unitask but to multitask systematically; our mothers (thanks Lisa!) truly are the champions at this and we can all do with a moment to watch/ remember them in action.
My mother was so systematic in getting us (my twin brothers & I) ready for school that somehow we were up at 6, showered, chores completed, fed, homework checked and out the door for the bus all before 7.20am. And yet, now I think about it, she stayed in bed that whole time too. I guess we were just one step in her system.
For me, I step the system out and take into consideration all the little things too. Under-appreciating these little things is what gets in the way of being organized.
[email protected]. There was once a time when mutli-tasking was a sought-after skill by employers…
As for myself, I am a chronic multi-tasker. The way I see it, as long as I am accomplishing SOMETHING, then that day was a productive one. Not true. Although I get tons of things done around the house, I later find myself in clutch mode to complete my projects. Great post!
Guilty, as charged. 🙂
Thanks for your list. However, it could be condensed into a list of 5 things. Were you multitasking when you wrote it? 😉
Increased productivity: 1, 5, 7, 10
Enhanced Final Product 2
Less Mistakes 3, 8
More Professional 4
Increased well being 6, 9
Tania Mara says
Multitasking has never been for me. I just can’t do it. I mean, I can, but then everything goes wrong–for the very reasons you listed.
Back when I still had a 9-5 job, I’d often have problems with co-workers and bosses who felt multitasking was a “necessity” and a “sign of competence.” I wish they all read this post now.