Multitasking seems to be a productive way to get a lot done and save some time at work. However, the opposite is, in many cases, true. Multitasking can actually impair your overall productivity and have more negative impacts than you might have ever realized.
Multitasking means splitting your attention between multiple tasks and/or switching back and forth from one thing to another to perform several tasks at once. However, doing a couple of things at the same time (or at least trying to do so) doesn't explicitly lead to having more things done. E.g. Having a call with your team member and trying to answer an email at the same time is an excellent example of multitasking. Isn't it much more productive to finish the call first and then answer the email?
What Are the Consequences of Multitasking?
There are many consequences of multitasking which have been proved by several various studies. Among the most common ones, the following effects have been revealed.
- Multitasking impacts your short-term memory (read more in this study).
- Multitasking will stress you out and make you feel tired much quicker.
- You can't fully concentrate on one thing and therefore you lose significant amounts of time as you switch between multiple tasks (read more in this study).
- Multitasking impairs your creative thinking.
How To Minimize the Negative Consequences?
Sometimes multitasking is inevitable; however, the consequences mentioned above clearly show that multitasking doesn't lead to more things done nor to become more productive at all. On the contrary, they lead to the opposite effect.
So how to minimize the multitasking at work? Here are a couple of things you can implement to reduce the possible consequences of multitasking.
Firstly, plan a list of tasks you would like to finish during the day. Give the tasks priorities and plan thoroughly when you will work on them (morning, after lunch, before going home, etc.). Then, eliminate any unnecessary distractions which draw your attention and force you to switch the context. The typical examples might be instant messaging apps, notifications, emails, calls, or else. Don't be afraid to mute the notifications. Instead of reacting to the message immediately, set a specific timeframe when you will be regularly answering those messages, emails and calls to do everything at one time.
Don't forget to talk about the multitasking impacts with your colleagues. If they tend to disturb you regularly when you work (e.g. tapping at your shoulder and asking unimportant questions) explain to them that it's better to send you an email/message instead which you will handle during your "answering timeframe".
Try to think about the times when you're multitasking. There is a high chance you might be multitasking much more often than you even think! Catching yourself multitasking is the first step to realize this habit and start working on eliminating it in your daily routine.