We’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is: multitasking doesn’t work. The good news is: there are loads of other techniques that do. Below, you’ll learn why doing 5 things at once is not the answer, and what you should do instead!
Did you know that the human brain lacks the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously? You might think you’re multitasking, but you’re probably just switching from one task to another really quickly.
What’s the problem?
Multitasking costs you time and concentration. Each time you switch from one task to another, you’re distracting yourself from your original assignment and most likely taking a few seconds to re-focus on the new one. Even though those few seconds might not seem like much, they add up! Psychologists refer to this as “task switch costs”, ie. the increased mental demand associated with switching back and forth between tasks A and B and C. Not to mention, you’re much more likely to make mistakes when multitasking.
Productivity hacks to the rescue!
- Get granular with your to-do-list. With everything you do laid out clearly in front of you, it will be easier to stick to your tasks, and you’ll get the added burst of satisfaction from checking off the tasks as you complete them.
- Break your work up into bite-sized tasks, so that it’s less tempting to jump from topic to topic.
- Try out the Ivy Lee method: assign yourself six important tasks at the beginning of each day (or the night before), list them in order of importance, and work through them in that order. Don’t begin the next task until you have fully completed the one before it.
- Try the pomodoro technique: 20 minutes of work, followed by a 5-minute break (or 50 minutes of work followed by a 10-minute break). Focus on only one task or topic during each block of work!
- Let’s be honest: a lot of multitasking involves your mobile phone and social media. One easy workaround here is to turn your phone off, or leave it in another room. The same applies to many websites. Block any distracting websites so you can focus on deep work.
- Turn off notifications!
- Turn on some binaural beats - they’ve been linked to increased concentration and alertness, problem solving, and improved memory!