Multitasking… what many have considered the recipe to success for a very long time. Is it truly the key to maximum efficiency and productivity though?
In a world full of noise, chaos, and a flood of information from every source, we have adapted multitasking as our new normal. However, multitasking is a myth… one that harms attention spans and productivity. While we have become so used to this concept, it is doing more harm than good, and the real key to success lies in our ability to focus and most importantly, prioritize.
Information is vying for our attention everywhere we look. There is an overabundance of information available to us, and while this can be a useful tool, if we aren’t careful, we can enter information overload. Social media, TV, internet, email… the list is endless. The never-ending stream of information does not stop, and we believe that we must buy into it in order to keep up.
Because of this, the idea of multitasking has become the new normal. After all, if we don’t multitask how can we take in all this information at once? While this might be true, effective multitasking is a myth. An overload of information is not necessarily a good thing, as our brains are not wired to process information in this manner effectively. Readily available information is great, but true productivity lies in prioritization and focus, not multitasking.
Attention Span Deficit
As we adapt multitasking as our “new normal,” we are slowly but surely deteriorating our attention span. When we constantly flip back and forth between tasks, we are teaching our brain to lose focus. While multitasking might seem efficient, how can we truly be productive if we cannot stick to a task for longer than a short period of time? The truth is that we can’t.
Multitasking has pushed attention spans dangerously short, and without intentional focus on correction, it can be detrimental. Think about it… how long can you spend working on a task without checking your email, flipping to another project, answering a phone call, or stopping because you get distracted by something other than your work? Constantly stopping to check on these things has caused attention spans to dwindle, and productivity with it.
Between information overload and a short attention span, faith in multitasking leads to a decrease in productivity. It might seem great to tackle many things at once but taking on too much does more harm than good. Rather, focus on tackling one thing at a time. Taking three hours completing four tasks might seem great, but when these tasks alone would take 30 minutes each to complete, it becomes apparent that multitasking isn’t all it’s made out to be. When we multitask, we are taking our focus and pulling it in too many directions, and our brain cannot handle this.
Jessica Kleiman and Kristi Hedges from Forbes tell us, “it has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes.” To be truly productive we must focus on blocking out the noise, keeping our head down, and tackling one task at a time. This is the ultimate key to productivity and should be our chosen strategy. Productivity is at the root of success both in business and life alike and should be our priority every day.
As we now know, multitasking is a myth, and our strategy instead should come from focus and prioritization. So how do we achieve this?
While finding success will no doubt look different for everyone, at the core of this is ditching the switching. As we have evolved to naturally prefer taking in all the information at once, it might be hard to stop doing this altogether. Above all, learn what works best for you and stick with it! Self-awareness is key to accomplishing this and is no doubt the first step to true productivity. Learn what factors are holding you back and find a way to put an end to them.
For example, if you know that phone calls are a huge distractor for you, designate time each day to turn off your phone and focus solely on your projects, one at a time. Take the time to knock out the small things so you get in a productive rhythm, and then tackle the big things head on. True productivity is within reach, but first we must learn to relinquish our belief in multitasking, and rather prioritize our tasks in a way that is efficient and in turn successful.
Authored and Edited by Pegasus Intern and A&M Sewell Scholar, Addyson Brock ’22.
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