I think a lot of us believe that multitasking is a good thing. When we multitask at work, we feel like we’re being really productive. We can be on a conference call and respond to an email at the same time! We can answer a coworker’s questions while editing a document! We can work on a project while simultaneously planning a weekend getaway! No problem!

But in reality, multitasking is not especially efficient or effective. When we multitask, we’re not actually working on multiple things at the same time. We’re just switching back and forth between tasks, instead of focusing on one thing at a time. And this can have negative consequences. Researchers have found that constantly shifting our focus can lead to the following:

  • A pronounced drop in productivity (as much as 40%)
  • Increased mistakes and a lack of quality control
  • Stress and exhaustion

And apparently, people who believe that they’re really good at multitasking tend to be the worst at it. Researchers have found that people who multitask heavily are less able to get things done effectively than people who only multitask a little bit. It seems that when it comes to multitasking, the more you do it, the worse off you are.

So what should you do if you’re devoted to multitasking? How can you stop? Author Peter Bregman suggests that you follow these steps:

  1. Get rid of distractions. Close your office door, put your cell phone in your desk drawer, and try to separate yourself from anything else that tends to divert your attention.    
  2. Establish some tight deadlines. Try giving yourself a tight deadline for a task that you need to complete. The self-imposed deadline will help you to focus on getting the task done. And focusing on a single task will help you to feel less stressed and more productive!
  3. Don’t panic if you have to multitask a little bit. Life can be crazy sometimes. So if you have to bounce back and forth between tasks once in a while, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up about it!

Bregman, P. (2010, May 20). How (and why) to stop multitasking. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2010/05/how-and-why-to-stop-multitaski.html