multitasking, stress, prioritize, focus, how to be productive, time management“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” – Lord Chesterfield

Multitasking is an attempt to do several tasks at once for the sake of time. One of the biggest myths about productivity is that you will get more done if you multitask.

Multitasking was actually developed for computers, not humans. The task juggling of several actions became hugely popular in the 1990’s. But studies revealed that the human mind is not capable of juggling too many things at once.

Even everyday activities, like a trip to the grocery store, can turn into a marathon event. You are picking up dinner, texting, setting appointments, watching the kids, transferring money to different accounts on an app, and making sure you use all of your coupons. That just sounded crazy, right? Yet that’s just one example of how multitasking works.

The Ugly Truth About Multitasking

A 2010 Harvard Business Review post states multitasking can lead to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ. Multitasking at the most dangerous level is texting or talking on the phone while driving. Eighteen percent of injury crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.

The truth is when you try to manage several things at once you get nothing done efficiently, safely or properly.

You can get multiple things done during the day without trying to do them all at once. The biggest challenge is staying in charge of your thoughts, rather than letting them be in charge of you. When you try to do too many things at once your mind just switches from one task to the other. Multitasking can leave you standing in the middle of the room wondering what you got up for in the first place. Prioritizing the most important tasks that are going to make the biggest impact is the key.

Start Prioritizing Instead.

Block off time to work on a specific task. Get as much done as possible at one time on your project. This is where setting small goals to bigger projects really becomes effective.

Do you have ideas that come up when you are working on something? A trick to help you focus while working is to write it down while you are working on the task at hand. Look at your list when you are finished with what you were originally doing. Many times the distracting thought you had wasn’t important.

Multitasking and other distractions can be habits that block you from getting a task done. Prioritize your tasks, be in charge of your thoughts and stop multitasking.

38 thoughts on “Stop Multitasking and Start Prioritizing”

  1. OMGoodness this is a GREAT article – I have to share it!  I cannot tell you how much de-stress I feel when I put the computer away in the evening and just focus on cooking or hanging out with my son…turn down the "Droid" alert on my phone, so  iam not constantly checking it!  Great article Lisa – thanks again!!!

  2. It's so true Lisa – I can be a bit of a multi-tasker junkie… But when I look at the quality or work (and the speed of accomplishment) I realize that one task at a time is THE way to go!! Thanks for these great tips.

  3. A message we cannot hear too often. We can go deeper into our skills and talents if we focus on one task, one client, on objective at a time. Otherwise our efforts are just shallow and scattered.

    Wow, this hit me over the head! "multitasking can lead to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ." Lisa, that's a big deal! I knew that multitasking didn't work well but I didn't know it was that significant. Thanks for the reminder to focus and set priorities…so important!

    1. It’s a tough one to shift up but once you start you feel the freedom- and see the productivity. Thanks, Amy!

  5. So very true. I have found it to be much more productive and much less stressful to focus on one project at a time instead of trying to do it all at once.

  6. This one gives me a chuckle because I grew up believing the ONLY way you could get everything done was to multitask. I honestly don't remember my mom ever sitting down without at lesaet 2-3 things going on, usually more. This is one of my focal points for this year: do one thing, get it done, move on to the next. Thanks for the timely reminder!

  7. Hi Lisa,
    I've gotten into that trap at times, especially when I feel stressed because I have so much to do. Multitasking is never good. I can always feel it in my body that this isn't working for me.  Even when watching TV, it is so tempting to be on the computer, etc., but if works better for me to do one thing at a time. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It is tempting to work on the computer and watch TV. It seems benign but you can’t enjoy either task. Thanks so much!

  8. Wow! I needed to read this one, today (and yesterday and the day before that…). What staggering statistics: multitasking can lead to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ. Now the challenge – how to take charge of doing life one thing at a time :)!

    1. It is a challenge! It’s wild how it make me feel that I;ve gotten so much done, but I haven’t. One chunk at a time!

  9. I am so guilty of multitasking. My most damaging habit is continuing to try to work on my computer when my husband is talking.. I am working on being better about focusing on him instead of focusing half way.. it is not good for our relationship. Thanks for this article. It clearly makes some good points.

  10. My mother-in-law swears she is a skilled multi tasker. I swear she never gets the full benefit of anything whether it be conversation, activity, etc….everything gets a piece of her but nothing the whole of her. We've yet to hash this out…lol

  11. This is a lesson I am working on learning. I've started doing the notebook thing where I keep a pen and a notebook on the desk and when I think of things to do I just write them down instead of jumping all over the place.  Thanks Lisa!

    1. Good for you. That helps me so much, Lena. I’ve decided I will keep the sticky note people in business for a long time!

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