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Multitasking - A Productivity Myth

being more productive at work

Undertaking and trying to accomplish multiple tasks all at once is actually making all of us less effective.

“Focus, Daniel-San!” and “Look eye. Always look eye.” Remember Mr. Miyagi telling Daniel that in the Karate Kid? Bet nobody knew Mr. Miyagi was also offering great advice for business productivity!

You’re busy. And being as busy as you are, it’s important to focus. 

Multitasking, for some, is associated with a badge of honor. We like to say and feel like, “I can do it all.” And it’s a commendable skill – the ability to juggle multiple tasks and get them done.However.

The need to focus still remains. Undertaking and trying to accomplish multiple tasks all at once is actually making all of us less effective. Plus, we’re distracted. Smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day – what I recently came across in this infographic. When you’re at work and you’re constantly checking your phone, you’re distracting yourself and because you’re averting your attention from the task in front of you – to check a text, a Facebook or Twitter alert, or just make a quick status update – you’re becoming less effective.

Every 11 minutes office workers are interrupted. Research also shows that to regain focus and concentration on a task after an interruption takes 25 minutes. You do the math. With these numbers, time is not on your side when it comes to your ability to get everything done.

Teenagers are constantly fidgeting with their phone and checking whatever the “cool” app is today – they just can’t pay attention. I know I’ve poked fun at them before, but, the truth is, we’re doing the same thing when we engage in multitasking, only we can put a little lipstick on it because we’re at work and “need to get a lot done.” Well, you know what they say about lipstick and pigs. 

Spread your attention across multiple tasks at once and you’re basically just an older teenager.

Do understand what I’m saying, though. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get multiple tasks done throughout the day. I am only saying, be sure you do them one at a time. Instead of attempting to juggle multiple things at once, give each task you’re undivided attention – I promise you’ll do them all better.

Achieve greater office productivity - tips to focus and shut out distractions:

  1. Notifications. Be sure you turn off all your social media and email notifications on your computer. Even if you don’t stop what you’re working on to open the new “like” on Facebook or the email, just seeing the subject line on the screen for a moment can break your concentration from the task at hand – unless you are waiting on a truly critical email, notification popups are just a distraction.
  2. Emails. It’s important to give yourself designated time to open, read and respond to emails two to four times a day. There’s this illusion that email creates where you feel you must respond immediately. Just because you have the ability to, doesn’t mean you always need to. If it REALLY is that important or immediate, then they’ll call – or track you down somehow.
  3. Breaks. Giving yourself a break every now and then will help keep you attentive and alert longer than if you were to pound it out at your desk for hours and hours. Brainpower and attention are finite.
  4. Your cell phone. Turn it on silent. If not the ringer, then at least turn the text alert sounds off. There’s a false sense of urgency technology carries with it – don’t succumb to it. I can’t speak for you, but pretty much every text I receive can wait.
  5. Internet. When you finish with a window, close it. If there’s an article you want to come back to, just bookmark it or use a tool like to create a list of articles you want to read with similar topics. Or try Pinterest (great for quickly creating a board for ANY topic – all you have to do is add the widget to your browser – also fantastic for recipes).
  6. Social Networks. Like I said, we all need a break now and then, but just like you would the internet, time yourself for check-ins.

What helps you stay focused during the day? Share your productivity tips in the comments below. Next month we’ll have another productivity post for you. Stay tuned!

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Topics: Productivity Tips and Tools