Should you multitask?

Image by Serena Wong

You’ve got a hundred things exploding all around you. Many things need to be complete five minutes ago. You are a super worker, so you take on a hundred tasks at one go – reply to an email, send a text to your boss, speak on the phone with a customer, stirring your coffee – all at one go. Okay, it wasn’t a hundred tasks, but four, and already three too many.

In contrary to the seemingly natural instinct of the employee-of-the-year hopeful, multitasking is actually counterproductive. I personally vouch for it, and am guilty of it. I’m not the only one who agrees. So does he, he, and he.

And so as you were chatting with your colleague while writing an email to someone, hadn’t the following already happen before:

  1. You lost your train of thoughts about what or how you wanted to write
  2. You didn’t convey your message in the email the best that you wanted to
  3. You wrote something that you wish you didn’t have
  4. You took forever to complete the email
  5. You never completed the email

The list is not exhaustive, but whatever the case, you just didn’t write the email how you really wanted it to be.

Now imagine how much worse it might be if this email was for an important customer, or your boss. It might have been an important price quotation. It might have been a sensitive message.

You really want to concentrate.

We always know that we should scribble our thoughts on what we want to do. In that way, our minds get freed from the to-dos that keep growing upon new tasks that you have set yourself to do. Yes, that list will help. That list that you can just toss into the wastepaper basket after you are done. That list on Evernote, that you can quickly jot down and later delete if you want to.

Was that your Facebook notification catching your attention? Turn off that browser or mute the notification. I’ve caught myself several times seeing a notification and thinking that I would just stretch the legs of my mind a little by checking out my Facebook while I was in the midst of a task. By the time I come back to the task, I had to reorganise my thoughts again. What a waste of time.

Build some stop points in your work day. It is good to take a breather, or stare out of the window a bit, or check on your LinkedIn a little bit, but never do them while you are doing something else. You will very likely find yourself needing to redo what you are doing, and that is why you actually take a longer time than if you had in discipline, tackle one task at a time, with fervour.

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