Multitasking: You Can’t Do It

Think you can multitask? News flash: you can’t. Not unless you’re a part of the 2% (yes, two percent) of people who can actually do it effectively. For the rest of us, multitasking can do more harm than good.

This revelation is just one of many shared in an excellent infographic from The infographic shares insight into technology’s impact on multitasking, favorite ways to multitask, and how it can impact productivity.

Most interesting to is the way that multitasking obliterates in productivity. So many people multitask at work, hoping to get more done by doing it all at once, but in reality, the opposite happens. According to the infographic, focusing (or trying to focus) on more than one thing results in a 40% drop in productivity.

But that’s not all: multitasking actually lowers your IQ by 10 points. That’s the equivalent of missing a full night of sleep. Throughout the course of the day, the average desk employee is distracted once every 10.5 minutes and loses 2.1 hours every single day to interruptions and distractions. In other words, multitasking is responsible for the loss of over 1/4 of their entire day, and adds up to 546 hours each year.

Multitasking is a bad habit, whether you’re at work or on a date. So why do we still do it? It’s our culture. We’re constantly barraged with all sorts of distractions that demand our attention: emails come in all day, our phones bing with text messages, and we get urgent assignments on a regular basis. It happens all the time, and even when things are calm, we’re so used to dealing with constant demands on our attention that it’s strange when they’re gone.

Perhaps that’s why the urge to multitask takes over even when we’re relaxing. According to the infographic, while Americans watch TV, 42% browse the Internet, 29% talk on the phone, and 26% text or IM. But it’s not just TV time that’s interrupted. Practically no activity is sacred: 67% will check email or the Internet on a date, 45% will do it at the movie theater, and even 33% will log on during church.

It’s clear that multitasking can have a majorly negative impact on your life, but it’s so ingrained in our culture that it’s hard to let go. Still, it’s essential to your productivity and sanity that you cut out this bad habit. Here are a few ideas for quitting your multitasking habit for good:

  • Politely ask colleagues and clients to wait. The next time your boss, client, or coworker demands your attention while you’re busy elsewhere, you don’t have to jump. Really. Most people are happy to wait if only you ask, and explain that you’ll be with them momentarily.
  • Turn off email notifications. At first, it might be a little scary to think that there could be an important email waiting for you that you were not notified of, but if you check your inbox regularly, this shouldn’t be a problem. Instead of getting popups or noise notifications for each new message, designate specific times during your work day when you’ll check in and take care of new messages.
  • Work when and where the distractions aren’t. Come in to work ridiculously early, when your coworkers aren’t likely to stop in for a chat. Reserve time in the office conference room where you won’t be easily found.
  • Prioritize your tasks. So often, we try to do everything at once because everything must be done right away. As a result, nothing gets done right away and it’s all slowed down. By effectively prioritizing what must be taken care of, you can single-task and get them all done quickly, and in order of importance or urgency. It doesn’t take long to plan what must be done.

Are you guilty of multitasking? What’s your plan for cutting stress and multitasking out of your work life?

Embed the Multitasking: You Can’t Do It infographic