How to stop multitasking
What are you doing right now? Sure, you’re reading this article…but I’m guessing you’re doing something else too.
Maybe it’s listening to music or watching TV in the background. Perhaps you’re reading on your laptop and casually scrolling through Instagram on your phone. Maybe you’re even in the middle of an important Zoom meeting (don’t worry–I won’t tell your boss).
Whatever it is, you’re multitasking.
Multitasking seems relatively innocent on the surface, maybe even helpful. After all, you can finish things so much faster when you’re doing two things at once, right? Wrong. Sadly, multitasking can kill your productivity by as much as 40%.
If you’re a heavy multitasker, you’re probably outraged. You’re able to focus on multiple things at once, you say. Your productivity increases and you get things done faster, you say. I hate to break it to you, but science doesn’t agree.
The science of multitasking
According to research, you’re slower to complete tasks when you’re multitasking than when you’re focusing on them one at a time. This is because it’s not actually possible to give your full attention to multiple tasks at once.
What you think of as multitasking is actually task-switching. Whenever you’re doing multiple tasks, you’re forcing your brain to switch between tasks at a rapid pace. This takes a toll on your productivity because of the need to alternate between the rules of the different tasks.
You probably wouldn’t want your Uber driver to multitask while your kids are in the car. Texting while driving is so dangerous because it takes your brain time to switch between the two tasks. It’s simply not possible to focus on driving and respond to a text at the same time.
Perhaps you’ve noticed this inability to multitask in your work meetings. Your team starts talking about a different department, so you decide to send a few emails. Before you know it, your manager is asking you a question and you have no idea what she’s talking about. Then you check your sent email and realize you forgot to add the attachment. You thought you were being more productive, but you actually ended up wasting time.
A society of multitaskers
While the idea that the human attention span is less than that of a goldfish turned out to be a myth, it’s clear that it’s becoming harder and harder to hold our attention. With the numerous things fighting for our attention, it’s more difficult than ever to stay focused on one thing at a time.
Let’s face it, we have become a society of multitaskers. We’re addicted to constantly experiencing multiple forms of stimulation.
You can’t just sit down and listen to a podcast. You find yourself responding to messages, ordering clothes online, and doing the dishes while you listen. You end up missing key parts of the podcast, constantly rewinding 15 seconds to try to figure out what’s going on. Our bodies aren’t meant to handle so many things at once.
Is it possible to go against the media multitasking grain? It may feel countercultural, but there are ways for you to reclaim your ability to focus–and increase your productivity exponentially.
How to stop multitasking
Once you become aware of your tendency to multitask, you can start looking for ways to stop. Here are some strategies to help you take back your lost time.
1. Set a goal of 20 minutes
You can do anything for 20 minutes, right? When a task feels overwhelming (or boring), commit to focusing on it for just 20 minutes. You may find that you reach flow state and continue working on it for hours…or you might need to switch to a new task after 20 minutes. Either way, your productivity will increase if you attempt to concentrate on each task for at least 20 minutes instead of multitasking.
2. Put the right tasks together
Multitasking is not always a bad thing. There are certain types of tasks you can pair together without forcing your brain to constantly switch between them. Mix a cognitive task with a physical task that you can do on auto-pilot. For example, you can stretch while coming up with marketing strategies or make your lunch while on a work call. As long as your brain isn’t pulled between two cognitive tasks, you can use multitasking to your advantage.
3. Rely on distraction-free tools
Of course, one of the biggest culprits of multitasking is your phone. When you receive a notification, you pick it up without thinking (even if it’s just Facebook saying your third cousin added a photo of his lunch). In order to focus fully on the task at hand, search for apps such as Freedom or Forest to eliminate distractions.
4. Avoid boring tasks whenever possible
There’s nothing like a boring project to drive you to multitask. Whenever you can, say no to things that you know will bore you. Still, you’ll probably get saddled with boring tasks from time to time. When that happens, go back to the 20-minute rule. You’ll be able to accomplish more if you focus on one task at a time, no matter how boring it is.
5. Rest well
Having enough rest gives your brain the energy it needs to resist distractions. That’s why you find your mind wandering more than usual when you’re tired. In order to get the rest you need, make sure you’re getting enough deep sleep at night and taking breaks throughout the workday. If you find yourself continually getting distracted, that might be a sign that you need a quick break from the project.
6. Make your workspace your work space
It’s essential to designate your workspace for work only. If you watch Hulu or shop online for athletic clothes in your office, you’re telling your brain that it’s okay to use that space for whatever you want. When you need to do another task, leave your workspace for a few minutes. Also, clear your desk of anything that’s not related to your work. If you have a stack of unpaid bills sitting next to you, you’re likely to get distracted by them throughout the day.
7. Use the Focus signal
Sometimes you need a little boost to stay focused on your work. Try Hapbee’s Focus signal to enhance your productivity. Hapbee is a wellness wearable that allows you to experience different sensations without the negative side effects of substances. With our 30-day money-back guarantee, you have nothing to lose. Order Hapbee today.
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