Is Multitasking Making You Unproductive? by Curtis Battles

{3:00 minutes to read} In my business and day-to-day personal routine, I strive to be both efficient and thorough. In order to do this, I’ve learned it is best to set specific goals every morning—and to stick to those assignments. The temptation to multitask looms often, but even a 10-item “to do” list is too overwhelming and can be detrimental. 

A recent article from Fast Company introduced the concept that tasks requiring deep thought are only possible if you are able to focuswithout distractionon those tasks. Furthermore, research from Georgetown University and the University of London indicate that multitasking can lead to a drop in IQ. 

For example, if you’re thinking about the unread emails in your inbox right before you head into a big meeting, and then afterwards spend time on social media, followed by working on a deadlineyou are suffering from attention residue. This can cause your IQ to drop by 10 points; and if you are a serial multitasker, your IQ could drop as much as 15 points. The more residue buildup you have, the worst you’ll perform on all tasks. Yet another study seemed to imply that multitaskers have less brain density in the areas responsible for empathy and emotions. 

How can you stop multitasking? 

First, you have to put in an effort and wean yourself from the distractions which are all around you. That is where the practice of mindfulness comes into play. Mindfulness is a concept that focuses on the present moment. It is a powerful tool that is used to help people meditate, increase their ability to “go with the flow,” and stay focused on the task at hand. For instance, if you’re sitting in a meeting, bored to tears, being mindful will calm your urges to incessantly check your phone for updates. Rather, by practicing mindfulness, you can choose to be content just for existing and being alive. 

Second, engage in deep work. For work to be construed as deep work, it must consist of a single, cognitively demanding task that brings future rewards. The amount of time you spend on the deep work, and the intensity of your concentration, will ultimately make you more efficient. It’s about developing the ability to shut off the myriad distractions and devote your attention to one thing at a time.

Personally, I no longer have a problem allowing phone calls go to voicemail if I’m busy. I know that whatever the task at hand is, I will do it better without distractions—and when I call the person back, I will be fully present and the call will be more meaningful.

Are you living in the present right now? Isn’t life a wonderful thing?

Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Contact me with questions!

Curtis C. Battles