How often to you attempt to multitask to become more productive?
I often find myself doing this. Even as I write this, my phone sits next to me. I’m tempted to stop writing and check a few emails.
But I shouldn’t.
I don’t multitask well. And neither do you. This is what research about our brains and our attempts to juggle several tasks at once tells us.
Studies consistently show us that God did not create most of our brains to do multiple tasks at the same time. We are at our best when we focus on a single task.
So what does happen when you multitask? It’s probably not increasing productivity. Let’s look at what you are really doing when you “multitask.”
- You are not really multitasking. You are “task-switching.” You are mentally going back and forth between tasks, rarely doing multiple tasks at the same time. You are actually just reducing your ability to focus on another area and wasting brain time going back and forth.
- Your are reducing your IQ. According to the Institute of Psychiatry, this is exactly what happens when we get distracted by an email or text. Our IQ can drop by 10 points. We are think less clearly and are less productive.
- You are slowing down. Multitasking makes you take longer on individual tasks than doing them one at a time. The attempt to switch between tasks slows down your mental ability to process what is needed and to focus on each task.
- You are creating stress. In fact, you can reduce stress by single-tasking. The mental juggling you are trying to accomplish has been shown to increase your stress level.
- You are struggling to filter out irrelevant information. A study of college students demonstrated that those who multitask struggle to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information, making it more difficult to focus on what is needed for a particular task.
- You starting to do busywork. The reduced ability to filter out relevant information can cause to do work that isn’t really necessary.
- You are less able to concentrate when you need to. Those who multitask tend to find it more difficult to focus on an individual task when they need to. They have made task-switching a habit. Their ability to concentrate has decreased.
- You are simply not performing as well. And this is what it leads to—those who multitask perform worse on tasks than those who don’t. The desire to do more and be more ends up hurting the individual’s performance. They end up doing worse by trying to do more.
The goal behind multitasking, to be more productive, is a good goal. But multitasking won’t get you there.
So if you are a serial multitasker, what should you do?
- First, pause. This is probably the most difficult thing to do. But you need to step back away from the work and clear your head.
- Second, pray. Pray for wisdom. Pray for clarity. Also, Also, ask God to reveal whether or not your desire to accomplish more is a symptom of something wrong in your spiritual life. It might not be. But its always worth laying it down before God and allow Him to make the determination, not you.
- Third, create a task list and prioritize. Give your most important tasks prime effort and focus time. For some, this may be the morning. For others, it may be night. I use the Clear app for my task list. I recommend it.
- Finally, focus. Do one task at a time. Place other distractions out of sight (I just slid my phone away from me). Reduce the temptation of task-switching.
Give your brain the ability think clearly, focus intently, and move rapidly by resisting the temptation to multitask.