The myth of multitasking
You really can’t do it all
Hey there —
You might think peak productivity is putting your head down and working for eight straight hours, jumping from one task to the next as you crush that to-do list.
Well, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but…
Gone are the days where “great at multitasking” was something to brag about or a key skill to list on your resume.
Numerous studies have proven that our brains aren’t actually capable of paying attention to more than one thing at a time. And what we call “multitasking” is just our brains rapidly switching back and forth between tasks. 😵💫
If that sounds exhausting…it is. As Dr. Sahar Yousef, cognitive neuroscientist at UC Berkeley describes it, “every time you make that switch, you pay a ‘tax’ on both your time and your energy.”
So while multitasking might make you feel like you’re getting more done, in reality, the only thing it’s helping you achieve is burnout, a 40% reduction in your productive time, a foggy memory, and some really terrible workplace boundaries.
Instead, you’re much better off monotasking: focusing on one thing at a time to avoid those hefty “switching taxes.”
And if you really want to give your brain a boost, don’t just aim to do one thing at a time — do one thing at a time for a limited amount of time.
There are numerous strategies for this, like timeboxing or the Pomodoro Technique. But one study on workplace habits proposes that the ideal work-to-break ratio is 52 minutes of work/17 minutes of rest — with observations on the most productive participants highlighting another important fact: you can’t multitask at rest, either.
Whatever the specific length you choose for your work/break rhythm, clearly the most important factor is the singular focus of those minutes. Which means getting intentional about avoiding distractions.
To help with that, here are a few final tips for kicking multitasking to the curb:
✖️Close those browser tabs. If it doesn’t apply directly to the single task you’re focusing on, it doesn’t need to be open. And yes, that also means…
📪 Close your email app. No more incoming messages clamoring for constant attention. Instead, schedule specific times throughout your day to check and respond to emails.
🗓️ Give yourself a buffer. Always overestimate how long it will take you to complete a task. Add 15 minutes of transition time to your calendar before and after meetings. And plan for adequate travel time before and after appointments. (When you don’t feel like you’re falling behind, you’ll be far less tempted to multitask in an attempt to catch up!)
Remember, no matter how hard your brain works to convince you otherwise, it really can’t do everything all at once. But it can do anything…one task at a time. 😅
Setting boundaries at work: why it’s time to start putting your out of office response on 24/7
by Lauren Geall
Did our tip to close your email app have you squirming with anxiety or thinking, “But what if there’s an urgent message??”
If you’re torn between maintaining your focus and the fear of something falling through the cracks (or your coworkers’ or clients’ responses), this article will show you how to use your inbox’s OOO function to help set boundaries and manage expectations.
Your brain will perform better if you shift into this mode of working
by Donna McGeorge
“Going hard and being on all the time is actually detrimental to what you want to achieve.”
So says productivity expert Donna McGeorge (and we couldn’t agree more). 👏
Here, McGeorge offers four strategies that will tell you…
📊 The percentage to use for building buffers
🧐 What to pay attention to instead of the clock
🕜 The max length for any meeting, and
✏️ How to simplify your to-do list
…so you can reach peak performance and do more by working less.
Forest: Focus for Productivity
By Seekrtech Co.
If you need a little extra help avoiding the distraction of your phone while you’re supposed to be focusing on work, studying, or just being present, the Forest app is here with some fun motivation.
Start a focus session to plant a virtual tree. Your tree will grow as you focus, but if you pick up your phone and open another app before the time is up…your tree will wither.
Stay focused to grow your forest and earn rewards to unlock new virtual trees — and even plant some real ones. 🌳
Written by Ashley Martin
Edited by Matt D'Avella