How Multitasking is Killing Productivity
"Hold my calls" was a term used when someone needed to focus on an important task or when meeting with a client or coworker. Today, there are too many forms of communication to "hold". Emails, texts, instant messages, social media platforms, and the phone are all sources of distraction. Because we live in a society that is driven to being instantly gratified in all that we do, many feel that incoming messages need to be responded to immediately. This has caused an inability to focus in all areas of life.
Without focus, chaos ensues. This chaos is referred to as multitasking. Multitasking has many negative effects including stress, burnout, and a decrease in the quality of work. The worst possible effect of multitasking is seen when people attempt to text while driving. Unfortunately, we have become a society that feels the need to get it done, right now.
Since we have been slowly conditioned to multitask, it can be very difficult to break the habit. There are ways to increase focus and to decrease the tendency to do even two things at once. The first was discussed in our last article, creating to-do lists. By focusing on just one task at a time, without distraction, if even for a few minutes, will increase focus over time.
Scheduling time to work in a conference room or an empty office is a great way to remove distractions, especially if your workspace is chaotic. The trick to employing this strategy is to leave the cell phone behind. A change of scenery that is free from the phone, email, and visitors is guaranteed to increase productivity, even if it is only for a few hours. If this is not possible, shut off the ringer on the phone, turn off the cell, shutdown your email and internet, and place a simple "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door.
Messy office spaces can be a symptom of multitasking, and are also a huge productivity drain. Having materials out for only one task out at a time decreases the tendency for multitasking. Constantly locating important files is a time drain. While it may be hard to take a day to clean out your space and reorganize, taking five minutes every few hours to tidy up is very doable. This will not only clear off your desk, but will allow you a mental break. Studies show that people are more productive when they take frequent breaks. Looking away from the computer relieves eyestrain and getting up and moving helps the entire body.
Contrary to popular belief, focusing on one thing at a time is actually the most efficient way to work. If you are a chronic multitasker, start small and work towards focusing on one task at a time each hour. When you are able to do this for an entire day, reward yourself with a lunch out or with a round of golf after work. Next time, we investigate various productivity apps.