Skype is open. Instant message programs are pinging. Your unread email count is rising. Your browser has 8 tabs open. There are 5 documents open on your desktop. Your calendar alerts are popping up and you stop to send a quick text. Sound familiar? You probably think you’re being efficient, but you’re not. Multitasking is a big mistake and it’s hurting your productivity. Which in turn is hurting your profits.
Consider these startling statistics that highlight the negative effects of multitasking:
- Multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity. (Bergman, P. (2010, May 20). How (and why) to stop multitasking. Harvard Business Review.)
- The estimated cost of interruptions to the American economy is nearly $650 billion a year. (Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex, a business-research firm)
- Multitasking causes a 10% drop in IQ. (Bergman, P. 2010, May 20. How (and why) to stop multitasking. Harvard Business Review.)
The scientific evidence against multitasking is overwhelming. Consider the evidence:
- Studies show that the human brain can’t handle more than one task at a time. Even though we think we’re multitasking, our brains are actually switching rapidly between tasks. (The Myth of Multitasking. Scientific America. 2009, July.)
- Only 2.5% of the population actually process tasks simultaneously. (James Watson of the University of Utah)
- In a study of Microsoft employees, workers took, on average, 15 minutes to get back to intense mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to e-mail or instant messages. (New York Times)
- It actually takes more time to get things done when you try to multitask. People who are interrupted – and therefore have to switch their attention back and forth – take 50% longer to accomplish a task. (John Medina, Brain Rules)
- Multitaskers make up to 50% more errors. (John Medina, Brain Rules)
Ready to give up on the myth of multitasking? Use these tips to overcome the urge to do two things at once and become truly efficient and productive.
Batch your tasks.
Try grouping like work together so you’re working within the same mode for blocks of time. Have specific times of day when you read and answer emails. Train your contacts not to expect instant answers to email. Let them know you check email at 10 am and 3 pm, for example. Consider hosting “office hours” when you’re available on Skype or instant message to avoid quick-question-type interruptions. Stop answering the phone every time it rings. Instead, schedule phone calls so you aren’t interrupted.
Prioritize your to do list.
Track your energy throughout the day to find the times when you have the most energy. Schedule the tasks that require “heavy lifting” at the times when you are at your peak. Try alternating tasks that take a lot of focus with tasks that are less intense.
You don’t have to do it all on your own. Delegate tasks to others when you need to. A Virtual Assistant can be an excellent investment in your business. All that time you’re wasting returning phone calls, managing your email, futzing around with your email newsletter and responding to customer service inquires could be spent landing your next high paying client. How much money is your multitasking really costing you?
There was a period of time when job descriptions claimed that multitasking was a must. Current research proves that thinking wrong. Multitasking hurts your productivity, causes you to be inefficient and make more mistakes. Do yourself a favor and focus on one project at a time. Batch tasks to help you stay focused. Prioritize and delegate to streamline your to-do list. Become the productive and efficient person you want to be. You’ll be more confident, more focused, more profitable and more successful in your business.
Your Action Plan For This Week:
|1.||Pause throughout your day to notice your energy level. Rate it on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high). Track your energy for the rest of the week and look for patterns. Notice the times of day when you rate your energy a 5.|
|2.||Make a list of tasks you do regularly that could be delegated then call a VA and ask for a quote on those tasks.|
|3.||Before you open your email or listen to your voicemail, look at your to-do list for the day. Consider what you should actually be doing that will grow your business. .|
|4.||Schedule specific blocks of time during the day to check email and voicemail. Aside from those times keep your email closed and choose not to answer the phone when it rings.|
Thanks for this post Sydni, and the stats. I’ve gotten in the habit of turning off email notifications and such while I’m creating tutorials. It has really improved my productivity.
Jacquelyn S. Rardin says
Thank you, Sydni! I couldn’t agree more. As a professional organizer, you echo many of my time-management tips for success.
I’ve always been curious about virtual assistants, but never really pursued anything on that front. Where do you find one? Where would one start?
Thanks again for the wonderful article!
Sydni Craig-Hart says
Great question Jacquelyn! You can find qualified Virtual Assistants at AssistU, HireMyMom and IVAA.
Where you start is determining what type of support you need and detailing specific task that you’re looking for help with.
What is bogging you down now?
Jacquelyn S. Rardin says
Thank you for the VA referrals! Very helpful! I’ll check those sites out. As a professional organizer and strategic thinker (www.freeupnow.com), I’m very good at retaining productivity and meeting most of my goals. What bogs me down is that with a growing business, I can’t do it all, but I’m not ready to hire employees. While I enjoy everything I do, I’d love to outsource certain areas, like database management and sales and marketing support so that I can focus my time with clients and on other longer-term goals.