It was one of the classic interview questions from a decade ago: how well do you multitask? A multitasking ability was seen as a classic strength of a quality employee, up there with being a team player and being able to handle constructive criticism. Employers craved people who would want to answer emails, organize the boss’s schedule, and finish their assigned sales presentation all at the same time.
Then a funny thing began to happen… companies that hired with a focus on multitasking began to see drops in productivity. There are always a few people who can effectively multitask, but for most people, a singular focus is a better approach.
Multitasking Robs the Brain of Computing Power
How many times have you told someone that you’ve got to “switch gears” to get back on task with a project? That’s literally what is going on every time you multitask. For the majority of people, their brain focuses on just one task at a time. Now it might be doing different tasks, but the purpose of those tasks is to achieve just one outcome instead of several simultaneous outcomes. If you stay focused, you keep your brain’s computing power at its maximum. If you multitask, you’re switching gears and it takes time for that to happen. Every time you switch between tasks, you’re literally robbing yourself of productive time.
Multitasking Encourages Distractions
Multitasking isn’t just a practice. It’s also a routine! Once people get into the habit of doing multiple things at once, they feel like they must continue to do so in order to stay focused, even if there is only one thing to do at any given time. That’s when distractions begin to creep in. Social media, email, cats and unicorns on the internet – you name it and your brain will crave it. Those distractions will just further rob you of productivity too.
Multitasking Eliminates Creativity
When people are working on multiple tasks at once, the goal is often to get those tasks completed as quickly as possible. When the emphasis is on speed, the emphasis is not on creativity. Those rare few people out there can do multiple creative things at once in a brilliant way, but for the general population that just isn’t the case. The more you can focus on one task at a time, the better the creative output is going to be.
Can Multitasking Habits Be Broken?
Absolutely! Because multitasking is a habit that has been developed, it is a habit that can also be broken. There are a number of different methods that can help eliminate the problem, but at the top of the list is to eliminate social media. Block these websites if necessary so you can stay productive. Pause deliveries from your inbox. Schedule meetings, phone calls, and other necessary distractions outside of your most productive time.
Most importantly, reward yourself when you do a good job. With positive reinforcement, you’ll give yourself the tools you need to block the need to multitask. If you can do that, then you just might see your creativity coming back once again!