Many people pride themselves in their ability to take on multiple tasks. When emails, text messages, business news, and spreadsheets are only a touch of a button away, it becomes very easy to address several projects at one time.
However, this notion that you can be more effective by juggling several tasks is a fallacy. In fact, taking on multiple tasks creates a detriment to overall productivity. First, your focus is divided between several concerns. When a top priority project is interrupted by short email replies to clients, your mind must switch gears repeatedly. Although this switch may feel instantaneous, it actually forces your mind to have to engage and re-engage when each new screen opens up.
This shifting of gears takes away from steady and focused work. Also, some tasks reveal themselves to be more complex than initially perceived. A proper email response to a client might involve follow-ups with colleagues and require more time and effort away from the priority project.
Second, managing multiple tasks at one time drains your energy at a significantly faster rate than normal. The habit of bouncing between open activities removes any defined beginnings and conclusions to your various tasks. You will constantly have open activities before you, and therefore you have removed the natural starting or stopping points that allow for a gradual ramp up or ramp down of mental energy use. Throughout the day, your mind would be forced to steadily operate at a high level, making you tired, sooner.
Finally, dealing with several tasks at once diminishes information retention. When you allow for several tasks to occur at one time, it’s harder for crucial information to stick. When you need to remember specific information, your mind recalls the facts from the memory of when you first received the information. When you undertake several tasks as once, your mind creates weaker connections to those memories because you were creating several memories in a short time span. Thereby, multitasking often leads to misremembered deadlines and details.
The key to becoming more efficient and effective is to plan ahead and organize your different activities into discrete time periods. This removes the tendency to multitask. This results in fewer activities in the same amount of time. Intuitively, this seems less practical, however it leads to higher productivity. Keeping a planner such as ones you find on STARTplanner allow you to set up blocks of time that manage your workload for you.
Planners define your schedule according to priorities and deadlines. They create a space where your activities have a clear beginning and end, allowing for sufficient focus, time, and energy. At the same time, these time blocks guarantee dedicated time and energy for each task, including low priority tasks that often get ignored or forgotten. Furthermore, planners allow you to handle emergencies and delays better.
When unexpected activities or lags occur, the planner points out potential work flow interruptions and prompts rescheduling options, giving you better control of your time. You will find that by planning less activities per time frame, you end up achieving more. Multitasking gives the mistaken impression of being a smart way to accomplish more. This cannot be further from the truth. It is through the conscious choice of doing less, where you end up achieving more.