When most people think of being productive, we think about multitasking and tackling multiple items on our to-do lists at once. With the busy way we live our lives—packed full with to-do list items, tasks, deadlines, and goals to achieve—multitasking has gained popularity. But science has proven again and again that multitasking actually harms your work performance and productivity. Multitasking also impacts your personal life, relationships, and even your physical and mental health over time. It’s so important to learn how to stop multitasking so that you can be more productive and experience a healthier lifestyle overall.
One reason that multitasking is detrimental to productivity is by creating an illusion of productivity. Instead of actually being your most productive, you feel productive by switching between tasks. When your brain goes through the process of ‘task-switching,’ you actually lose time, focus, and energy to get tasks done (and get tasks done well). When you learn how to stop multitasking, you can concentrate your efforts on one task at a time and become more productive over time.
Multitasking Is The Biggest Energy Drain
Scientists have found that multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 40% by creating mental blocks during task switching. This means that by having to reset your brain and focus on a new task before finishing the first, you actually drain your mental energy and cost yourself time. It takes longer to switch between incomplete tasks than it does to finish a task and then move on to the next.
When we multitask, instead of doing multiple activities at the same time, we rapidly switch between activities. This constant switching really tires out our brains. On a molecular level, this process uses up oxygenated glucose—A.K.A the fuel your brain needs in order to focus on a task—in your brain, making you feel tired much faster than you otherwise would.
Multitasking also leads to impacts on your physical health. When you multitask and become tired quickly, you tend to eat more and consume more caffeine. With multitasking, the real solution becomes breaks, not caffeine. A bonus cup of coffee won’t help you focus as much as a break for your brain. When you return from the break, though, it’s most productive to focus intently on one task at a time rather than return to the multitasking process.
Multitasking Creates Mistakes
If you split your attention between multiple focus points, you are bound to miss key details about some of those tasks. Tiny mistakes happen when you shift your attention from task to task during multitasking. When you learn how to stop multitasking, you save yourself time and the stress of having mistakes or missed details build up during the day.
You can take back control of your productivity and your ability to focus. You can learn how to stop multitasking with a few key strategies. You’ll feel more focused, ready to get things accomplished, and able to really know a task inside and out without being distracted by other items on your to-do list. It might take you a little while to adjust to this new way of being productive, but you’ll notice a huge difference once you get the hang of it.
Use Special Programs to Help You Learn How To Stop Multitasking
If you struggle with always working on several tasks at once, try creating a task list in a program like Sunsama!
Sunsama is an excellent tool that’ll help you build a list of tasks to accomplish while breaking those down into individual, actionable steps. In Sunsama, you can prioritize tasks day-by-day and import tasks from other lists you might’ve used before. Sunsama also syncs up with your Google Calendar, so you can easily lay out your tasks in a manageable sequence. The program is basically a to-do list with superpowers for keeping you organized.
Sunsama is completely free if you use it for under 100 tasks per month, but if you need to go beyond that or work with a team, they have a variety of plans with unlimited tasks starting at $5 per month.
With a program like Sunsama, you don’t just list your tasks. Instead, you’re able to sort them into daily schedules and focus on prioritizing tasks as you go. Once you add in a main task (for example, “Send out this week’s marketing email”), you’ll be able to add in subtasks to clearly map out the sequence of things to do as well as keep you focused. With that example, subtasks could include things like “Open up the email marketing server,” “Write the text for the email,” “Shoot and edit photos for the email,” “add formatting,” and “send email to subscribers.” You’ll be focusing on one task at a time rather than multitasking, and you’ll work faster when you have a clear plan of action for completing a goal.
Identify Your Priorities
On a daily basis, you should be looking at your to-do list and prioritizing tasks. Prioritizing lets you assess the urgency of tasks while sequencing them in a productive way. The best way to prioritize tasks is to focus on the most urgent, time-sensitive, and important tasks first.
Once you’ve knocked out the tasks with strict deadlines or the most significance, then you can move to important tasks that are not time-sensitive.
Finally, move things that are insignificant off of the list—figure out whether they need to be done at all, whether they should be delegated, or when would be the most productive time to tackle those tasks.
Prioritizing is one of the most important steps in how to stop multitasking. You have to be able to evaluate your tasks in order to properly sequence them in your daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. Prioritizing your most important tasks makes it clear how detrimental it is to be distracted by small tasks. You’ll be able to focus all of your attention on one important or urgent task at a time before working on smaller tasks.
Do A Time Audit
A time audit assesses how you’re spending your time, what’s effective, and what’s unproductive in your routine. To complete a time audit, you should track what you’re doing in 30-minute increments. By tracking what you spend your time doing (and how long different tasks take you on a typical basis) you’ll understand where your time goes during the week and how you can better organize and prioritize tasks to fit within those time blocks.
When you decide to try a time audit, make sure to do it during a normal week (not a holiday) so that you can get an accurate representation of how you spend your time on a typical basis.
Here’s an easy way to do a time audit for your own productivity. Print out this amazing Time Audit free printable. You can track your time in simple 30-minute increments, logging your activity and how long different tasks can take. You’ll get a great picture of how your time is spent during the day or week. Plus, you’ll be able to use that new information to develop better strategies for time management, task prioritization, and increasing your focus during tasks.
When you learn how to stop multitasking, you start prioritizing yourself and finding a work-life balance that’s healthy. By using prioritization, productivity and scheduling tools, and time audits, you’ll be on track to higher productivity levels and less distraction in no time. If you can focus on one task at a time rather than splitting attention between multiple tasks, you’ll notice a huge difference in your energy levels, the time you save, and the quality of work you’re achieving. Add in these small steps to stop multitasking and become more productive!