Tag Archives: multitasking

Why I broke up with multitasking

18 Apr

I’ve long prided myself on being a multitasker. I’ve worn it like a badge of honor.

I’ve also looked for that badge on others. Thinking back on the dozens of job interviews I have conducted, I cannot recall a time when I haven’t requested, ‘Tell me about your multitasking abilities.’

The ability to carry out more than one task at a time is the key to efficiency and productivity at work. Right?

Well, recently I began to question the superiority of multitasking. It seemed that despite my best efforts, I struggled to keep my head above water while drowning in endless to-do lists. Things piled up and some even got missed. The cherished tool of multitasking didn’t help. All that juggling wasn’t working.

I came across a 2010 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education exploring the ongoing research on the effectiveness of multitasking. One study cited found that, “self-described multitaskers performed much worse on cognitive and memory tasks that involved distraction than did people who said they preferred to focus on single tasks”.

Perhaps multitasking wasn’t the key to efficiency and productivity as I thought it was. It may have even been hurting my performance. I figured I had nothing to lose.

I decided to try something new.

I started to focus on one task at a time. I shut down my email and let the phone go to voicemail. It may have only been for 20 or 30 minutes, but during that time I gave the task at hand my full attention.  When meeting with colleagues, I listened more attentively and put aside the thoughts of what was next on my calendar.

Amazingly, I’ve found I get more done.  There is still an endless to-do list, but I’m finally crossing things off.  Most importantly, I feel less rushed and anxious.  This allows me to handle the inevitable distractions calmly and confidently.

So that, my friends, is why I have broken up with multitasking.  I probably should have done it long ago, but I just wasn’t ready until now. 🙂

There are times when we undoubtedly need to jump in and put our juggling skills to the test.  We’re just not meant to do it all the time.

Photo credit: BotheredByBees
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