Your scheduling system is open. Instant message programs are pinging. Your unread email count is rising. Your Internet 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 message to a friedn. 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. 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 specific staff members. Encourage them to document the steps they take so you have a written process in place that anyone can follow. Be proactive about looking for where time and effort is being wasted. Tackle one issue at a time and assign your Receptionist the job of developing an operations manual that outlines company policies for all team members.
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 business owner you want to be. You’ll be more confident, more focused, more profitable and more successful in your business.