‘Men can’t multi-task’… apparently.
But I slowly came to understand that multi-tasking is in fact a skill which is highly overrated.
What is multi-tasking? Is it being able to perform multiple tasks at once? Or is it task shifting? Moving onto another task you’re meant to be doing before finishing the last.
After spending years as a ‘one man band’ in business, I came to realise that multi-tasking is pointless.
In this post I’ll explain:
- Why multi-tasking is just hype (and why it affects your brain)
- How multi-tasking makes you feel productive… but you’re not.
- Why focus is the key to getting things done
- Plus a better way to work (do less, but produce more)
Why Multi-Tasking Is A Fad
I spent years working by myself. I literally did everything for my business, from customer service, web design, stock management and running to the post office every day. I did this because I was tight, and I didn’t want to spend money paying anyone else at the time… but I came to realise I also did it to feel ‘productive’.
Being able to write an article, whilst on the phone to a customer made me feel super human. It makes you feel productive…
… but the quality of work you’re focusing on is surely compromised whilst multi-tasking.
Think about it.
The priority of a job might be high, but if you allow the skill of multi-tasking to come into play then your attention is shared between tasks.
My to do list might of consisted of just 5 tasks, prioritised in order. But because of this so called ‘superhuman’ mentality of being able to multi-task, distractions got in the way.
You end up working more, but producing less.
With recent studies and tests showcasing some insight in to the fact that multi-tasking also can affect brain development, if it’s a skill you use… maybe it’s time to switch your focus. (Tests on multi-tasking affecting brain development)
Have you ever had a deadline for a project to complete, and you leave it to the last minute? I think we all have. And when you do, your focus is solely on that project, and it’s completion.. and so you get it done.
Do you allow the dishes that need washing to get in your way? Do you answer phone calls, or regularly check emails whilst working in deadline mode? Probably not.
And you’ll tend to find this is when you produce more work…
See I found myself working on important tasks, whilst letting my skill of multi-tasking allow me to perform other duties such as checking email, answering phone calls and more. The time it took to complete the important task was often increased due to multi-tasking, where as full focus on a task would allow quicker completion and a better standard of work.
A Better Way To Work
I remember writing an article once, and it took me 4 hours. Typically, an article of that length should have been completed within 45 minutes. The reason? I was easily distracted, I allowed myself to switch between tasks and inevitably after 4 hours of ‘work’ the article was sh*t.
In order to work less, but produce better results, it’s all about prioritising and full focus. If there’s anything I need to complete, it has to be important and I sometimes put a deadline to it. If a task is important, I’ll give it my full focus, and if there’s a deadline to meet I’ll get it done.
Your to do list shouldn’t consist of any more than 5 tasks, and the 5 tasks on the list should be high priority.
I tend to keep my to do lists down to 3 tasks to complete, and it’s motivating in the morning to see a tidy, easy to complete to do list. But these 3 tasks are highly important, they’ll benefit my business and they offer value rather than a simple task such as ‘check emails and reply’.
Stop letting distractions affect your productivity and in turn affect your quality of work.
Focus on one task at a time, and you’ll see the benefits.
Agree or disagree?
Let me know in the comments below.
[…] McGregor, Paul. 2015. “Why Multi-Tasking Is Overrated | Paul Mcgregor”. Paul Mcgregor. http://www.pmcgregor.com/multi-tasking-overrated/. […]
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