A common belief is that when you multitask, you get more things done. And your productivity increases. But nothing could be further from the truth. When you multitask, you’re actually hurting your productivity.
The only exception is if you’re doing tasks that don’t need a lot of attention. For instance, if you’re waiting in line, you can read a book. Or if you are driving, you can listen to music at the same time.
But generally, if the tasks you’re working on need your full attention to do them well, multitasking will slow you down. Whenever you switch tasks, you’ll have to spend time figuring out where you left off. It’s like being interrupted while you’re working. A Microsoft study showed that it took their workers 15 minutes to get back into the task after being interrupted. If you switch tasks a lot due to multitasking, you’ll be spending a lot of time trying to get back into each task.
To avoid multitasking, the first step is to minimize interruptions as much as possible. Turn off your cell phone, instant messenger, and email desktop alerts. Let your voice mail answer your personal calls. You can return your calls when you finish working.
Next, resist the urge to switch tasks, such as checking your email. Focus on the task you’re working on and nothing else. If you have a to-do list, work on each task one at a time. Don’t work on multiple tasks on your to-do list at the same time.
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