In this article, I wrote about multitasking. You will find some persuasive explanations about the negative effects of multitasking on productivity. Also, you will find some methods that will help you to stop multitasking and be more efficient. Here we go.
Multitasking has never been easier. In today’s tech world, taking care of more than one task once at a time is easy peasy.
Think about it.
You can read your emails from your phone while you are driving your car. You can open more than one tab in the same web browser to get multiple things done at once. Your second screen serves you to check your Slack messages while you are having a Zoom call.
At least this is what we are thinking.
Here is bad news coming. The truth is the opposite. Multitasking is a lie. What’s worse, it leaves damage to our brains. Also, multitasking is not a way to get more things done. It might seem like it is. But you can see the reality if you take the lid off. What you will see is the low-quality work and inefficiency.
Multitasking Is A Myth, Here Are The Studies
Above, I shared some shocking news about multitasking. And I would like to circumstantiate my claims with two different scientific research.
The first one is coming from the University of London. According to a study at the University of London that is mentioned in this article, multitasking drops IQ. Here are the details:
“A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.”
The second one is coming from the University of Sussex. A study at the University of Sussex that is mentioned in this article, talks about the same thing. Here are the details:
“A study from the University of Sussex (UK) ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”
Why We Can’t Multitask?
The answer is simple. We, humans, can’t focus on the different things at once. Especially for the things that need a process from the same brain function.
Let me explain how.
For example, if you try to have a conversation with one of your colleagues while you are checking your emails, you will fail at both. Because your brain automatically will reduce some of its functions to focus on what matters most to you at that time.
Another example you can check from here in this article. In a nutshell, that one explains why it is not a good idea to talk on the phone while driving a car.
As a result, we are not multitasking even though we think we are multitasking. Do you still insist on multitasking and its benefits? Actually, there is another term for you: Serial tasking (or task switching).
But no matter how you define it, there is only one outcome from multitasking. Inefficiency and time waste. So, if you want to hit your goals, it is better to accept reality and try to find ways to stop multitasking. It is time to do less and accomplish more.
8 Ways To Stop Multitasking
But how to resist the temptation of multitasking? To be honest, it is easier said than done. Especially when you have a bunch of tools that help you to multitask. But, like with anything in self-improvement, impossible is nothing. With enough determination and consistency, you can stop multitasking.
Here below, I wrote about some methods that worked for me and for so many other people.
Disclaimer: Everything I wrote below depends on my experiences. Things can change when it comes to your journey. So, this is not a certain recipe that works for everyone.
Don’t forget: There is nothing wrong with stealing ideas from others. However, only you can prepare a recipe that is special to your situation.
1-Have A To-Do List
I’ve always been a fan of this idea actually. But I’ve had times that fall into the trap of procrastination. Thus, I’ve had days without a to-do list. And those were the days my productivity dropped down like hell. Because when I don’t have a list for my tasks, I am always missing something and jumping between one task to another.
What is worse, I was trying to handle more than one thing at a time. Because there was no plan to follow.
If this is you, welcome to the club. There is only one way out from here. Preparing a to-do list. Not only for work, for the things you need to handle in your life too.
Actually, there is one thing you should take care of before you prepare a to-do list. You need to determine your priorities. Thus, you can plan your day according to this information. Otherwise, probably you will have a “busy day”.
Actually, the idea behind prioritizing is to not let small tasks interrupt the big ones. Because we tend to multitask while we are going after big tasks. IMO, the reason is simple, we are getting bored. So we start to check our emails, phones, even social media accounts.
This is when a to-do list full of prioritized tasks comes to the stage. An organized list will help you to get things done one by one. Give it a try and see the result yourself.
3-Take Time Management Seriously
Time management is something you need to value more than you think. Because even though you think you can handle everything in a day, you have a limit. This is why prioritization and a to-do list are essentials.
So, while preparing your list, take time management seriously and be honest with yourself. Do not include any task you can’t get done in your schedule.
Also, schedule your most important tasks to your most productive times (this mostly depends on your sleep cycle, but this a topic for another article).
Last but not least, the most important thing is to do one thing at a time.
After you managed to plan your day, it is time to get rid of distractions. As you can guess, notifications and a cluttered desk are usual suspects in this. And if I would make an addition to these common reasons, it would be overthinking.
Let’s go over them one by one.
Funny but to reduce distractions, you can use applications or extensions. There are a bunch of apps, extensions, tools on the market for this. The only thing you need to do is to search for “the best notification blocker” on Google.
“Live a meaningful life with less”. I am a fan of this quote from the Minimalists. Because you can apply it to anything in your life. And there is nothing different when it comes to your desk. I mean, you should declutter your desk (or where ever you are working). At least, this is what is working for me.
Oh God, save us from it. Overthinking is the biggest obstacle in front of everything and yet it is the hardest thing to stop. There is only one way I found useful to stop overthinking: Taking action. Because action speaks louder than words.
5-Learn To Say No
Your time is the most important thing in your life. Because time is the only thing you can’t take back and it is limited. So, it is critical what you spend it on. This is why you should learn how to say no. Because if you say yes to every meeting, every call, every offer, you’ll end up multitasking.
Don’t worry, there are ways to say no in a reasonable way. For example, you should take your needs as a priority, with no exception. Also, you should be polite and sincere to not let anyone else down. It sounds hard, but it is not.
Actually, I’ve written an article about this. You can check this article to have a better understanding of the importance of saying no.
6-Use The Music
Actually, the role of music in our productivity is murky. There are different theories and researches out there about the effects of music on our work. Some of them explain the benefits of music. Some of them the opposite.
According to this article from Florida National University, music has benefits on studying. It makes students calm, reduces their anxiety, helps them focus, and more. But if you check this article from BBC, you can see the arguments.
If you ask me, it depends. For example, I listen to classical music while I am reading or writing. When it comes to no-brainy tasks I go for genres like R&B, pop, or rock.
As a result, you should find out what works for you. So, if you want to listen to music while you are working, you need to do is to understand which type of music helps you with which tasks.
Do you remember the time management part? I think you do. Hah, don’t forget to add breaks in your schedule there. I know, sometimes you feel like you can work non-stop. But you can’t. I mean, even though you feel it, don’t.
Because you have a capacity. Your brain has some limits. If you push its limits, your brain will try to find ways to not work. Your brain will trick you. Thus, you will end up checking your emails or worse your social media accounts.
This is why it is important to take regular breaks while you are working. Fresh up your mind, give some space to yourself. You’ll see that this method will increase your productivity.
Personally, I take a 10-minute break for 50 minutes of work. This is the best method for me. But there are different methods you can try when it comes to having a schedule that will help to increase your productivity.
For example, you can try Pomodoro Technique. Or you can try and see what works for you. And you can come up with your own technique like 40 minutes work, 10 minutes break. Whatever it is, don’t forget to apply it to your schedule.
8-Prepare Yourself For Attacks
Our brains never stop, neither the distractions from outside. Even though you practice every single method I listed above, things will push you to multitask.
- You won’t be able to stop thinking about tomorrow’s important meeting.
- Your colleagues will come to ask for help from you.
- You will have to take care of an urgent situation of a family member.
Calm down. Things will be coming and it is okay. You can’t stop them. But you can take your precautions. Prepare yourself for attacks.
- Keep a notebook close to you to take notes about tomorrow’s important meeting or help requests from your colleagues.
- Don’t answer that phone right away. Let it ring for the second time. If they insist, answer it. Nothing is important than an urgent situation of a family member. If it is not an urgent situation, you can keep the conversation short.
Don’t forget, in the end, you are the master of your time. Act like it is.
That was all. As you can see, there is a solution for everything. But to find the best one, you should know where to focus on when. And don’t forget, Multitasking is not a solution. It makes things complicated.
If you have any other suggestions to stop multitasking, just share with us your experiences to support others in this adventure! And don’t forget to share your comments about this article below!