Guess What? Multitasking Doesn’t Save Time

In this plugged-in world, media and technology are interwoven into many of our daily tasks.  For many of us, it’s become the norm to feel like we best tackle the demands of our day by juggling multiple tasks at once.  With our various devices at hand, we feel nearly invincible to conquer the complexities of our day. All at once, you’re on a video conference, you’re replying to your boss’ text, and scanning your email.  You’ve got this! Right? Not likely. You’re over-worked and over-committed and assume that multitasking must be the solution to eking out more time, but multitasking doesn’t save time.

Blame it on the brain

Neuroscientists Drs. Cynthia Kubu and Andre Machado reported to TIME that the human brain is designed to mono-task, or attend to one task at a time.  Only 2.5% of people are effective multitaskers. For the rest of us, it’s a myth to think we can actually attend to more than one complex task simultaneously.  Rather, our brains quickly switch back and forth among tasks.

As your brain’s focus is switching among multiple tasks, it must spend time to re-focus on each task.  So, the time you think you’ve gained by multitasking is lost in this time to re-focus. Not to mention what’s lost in the quality of the work.  Drs. Kubu and Machado shared that studies found that heavy media multitaskers develop an inability to focus effectively on a single task, likely because they can no longer block out extraneous information.  Given that, if you are a chronic multitasker, the quality of your work inevitably suffers if you can’t fully attend to a single task.

Beware if your child is a media multitasker

If you have a child who swears he/she studies best with music on or never puts the smartphone down while doing homework, take note.  Drs. Kubu and Machado warn, “If we attempt from an early age to multitask constantly, we do not practice how to tune out the rest of the world, to engage in deeper processing and learning. Empirical research has demonstrated that multitasking with technology (such as texting, listening to music, checking emails) negatively impacts studying, doing homework, learning and grades.” Help your child by having them put their phone down, turn off music or the tv and encourage them to give their full attention to the task at hand.

You’ve broken the multitask habit.  Now what?

When you successfully kick the multitasking habit, you will be on your way to improved work focus and quality.  However, when working on a complex task for a prolonged period, be sure to give yourself a break.

Now you’re wondering, ”Hey, you just told me to focus on one task at a time.  Shouldn’t I stay focused and muscle through until I finish?”  Actually, maybe not.  If the task takes you longer than say 35-45 minutes, taking a break will actually make you work more effectively and efficiently.  Science Daily reported research findings, “that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one's ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.”

Take a brain break

To get the most out of your work day, plan a few minutes here and there to take a brain break if you have a big project on your plate. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set an alarm to remind you to take short breaks.
  • Stand up and stretch, close your eyes and breathe deeply, take a short walk to the water cooler.  Not only will your brain thank you, but your neck and back will thank you as well.
  • Avoid the temptation to use social media as your break, trading one media for another.  A physical break is better for your body and brain...and you won’t be tempted to extend the brief brain break into a time-sucking foray into someone else’s social  media posts.

We are all striving to get the most out of our day, but singular focus and well-timed brain breaks, not multitasking, are the way to save time and work efficiently.  Instead of multitasking, pair these strategies with powerful technology to streamline daily tasks, consolidate schedules, provide easy mobile access to important documents, and more with the Apple compatible app by iStratus.

Ann Brennanmultitasking, save time