Is multitasking productive?

Multi-tasking is very enticing, why be productive at only one thing? If I can do many things at once, I can get more done right?

Well the science on this is quite clear, for 99% of us, ‘multitasking’ is just changing up between tasks very quickly. And changing gears so much so fast is terrible and it takes our brains a lot longer to get in the rhythm of a certain task. On average, multitasking reduces productivity by 40%, meaning a 60 minute report you multitasked on, you could’ve finished in just over 30 minutes. Over the scale of a day alone, you can save hours and over a year, you can save a month or two of wasted time.

That’s a lot.

And further, studies show that constant multitasking makes you more prone to distracts because you feel you can handle more things simultaneously. But the time it takes for your brain to switch gears is long, and so in rapidly switching, your brain needs a good ten minutes, atleast, to build strong focus on a task; for peak productivity. Multitaskers have also been shown to be more distracted, less focused and less driven. One possible explanation is that multitasking is quite stressful, and it takes a toll on the brain. All this extra stress reduces the efficiency and effectiveness of your productivity, and studies show it can impact performance when you’re focusing on a single task.

More information to keep in mind is that multitasking can reduce your IQ, significantly reduce your efficiency, reduce your attention span, make you more prone to distractions, reduce your capability to focus, hardwire you to depend on constant simulation and actually physically make the centres for focus, reasoning and executive control weaker in your brain.

So now we know that multitasking is terrible, so what’s the solution? Pomodoro, simply break all tasks into 25 minute chunks of productivity. Rather than targetting strong focus, set your goal to ensure you don’t get distracted. After each 25 minute chunk of productivity, take a 5 minute break. Whenever you feel an urge to check your email, check your phone, listen to a song etc, scientifically just saying no is an inefficient strategy. Instead just postpone it to your next 5 minute break, or to your next larger 30 minute break (usually after 4 25 minute focus sessions).

Remember, procrastinate on your distracting urges, not your important work. Good luck and catch you next time,

Anandu Pradeep.

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