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The One Time Management Practice You Can Stop Doing Today: Multitasking
When you ask business owners what their top struggles are, a common answer is always time management. If only we had more time in the day, or could use our time more efficiently, we would be able to succeed faster and achieve bigger goals. With so many time management tips and techniques available for us to apply, there is one time management practice you can stop doing today. That one time management practice is multitasking.
I was wrong about multitasking
Multitasking is often seen as a pillar of productivity. We are often told that if we want to get anything done that we need to learn how to multitask.
I remember even being guilty of this myself. I was a proud multitasker and it was a skill that I sought out in the employees I hired.
To me, the ability to multitask meant that they were able to use their time well. Like so many, for me time management equaled multitasking. I failed to see multitasking as just one way to manage time and priorities. The more I learned about time management, I became exposed to additional practices and discovered that multitasking is actually one of the least productive methods.
Why Multitasking is unproductive
While you might think that you can get more done and therefore able to complete tasks quicker when you multitask, the truth is that it can actually take you longer to complete action items.
When you multitask, you have a time loss each time you switch between tasks. This is because your brain needs to move from focusing on one to-do to another. Sometimes, this time loss is so small that you would never notice. Other times it is large enough for you to be consciously aware of needing to remember where you left off with the task and what you should do next.
With multitasking, there is also a risk of repeating or missing action steps. This is because it is easy to forget what you have already completed when you frequently switch back and forth. This can be when you physically switch from one task to another or when your thoughts switch between items while you are working on one task. It is hard to do your best work when you have various thoughts filling your mind.
Is it really multitasking?
If you are sitting there thinking that multitasking is how you get anything done and that you are not ready to give it up, I might have some good news. You might not actually be multitasking! Some of the actions we associate with multitasking are not.
Let’s take a moment to clarify what is multitasking and what is not multitasking.
Being able to manage multiple projects at once is not multitasking. Often, you will have numerous activities going on within your businesses at the same time. In most cases, we need to have multiple clients or projects that you need to complete in tangent to meet your revenue goals.
Managing more than one projects at the same time becomes multitasking when you have more than one project open at the same time and jump back-and-forth. This could be physically switching between the projects mid-action item or mentally focusing on multiple projects at once.
If your project requires the input, approval or resources of others, you will reach points of the project where you must stop and wait. During that wait time, it is entirely ok to switch to another item. This is not multitasking but instead using your downtime wisely to maximize productivity. The key is to take one project as far as you can. Then, when you are waiting for others, work on another project.
Moreover, then there are times you just need a break from a task. Some assignments are so mentally draining that if you do not take a break, the output quality will decrease. It is ok to take these breaks and work on something else to reenergize yourself.
What to do instead of multitasking
Ready to give up multitasking and become more productive?
YES! I don’t know why we try to do so many things at once, but it actually slows us down in most cases. I am always encouraging people to toss this old idea of multitasking away and try something different. Time blocking is a perfect suggestion, definitely much more efficient than trying to multitask and feeling all scattered and tired.
I’m a big fan of time blocking as well. I never was good at multi-tasking – it always felt like at the end of the day I was exhausted and accomplished nothing.
Yes! I have always felt that way too when I try to multitask! Time blocking gives me such a feeling of accomplishment.
I completely agree! It’s not effective and you’re bound to get caught saying , “Squirrel!”
Time blocking is a perfect suggestion, definitely much more efficient than trying to multitask and feeling all scattered and tired.
I have a lot of trouble focusing as so many deadlines and projects. I know I get unproductive and don’t finish. Lists, breaking things down into small achievable chunks and timelines or time blocking make sense.
Yes, it’s all too easy to get lost in a sea of deadlines and projects. Breaking it down into small, actionable steps is a great place to start.