This study makes multitasking seem completely overrated

32 thoughts on “This study makes multitasking seem completely overrated”

  1. Multitasking is overrated. 🙂 I end up completing a little bit of everything, but nothing fully. I try and shutoff the distractions like turning the e-mail notification off while working on a project so I can stay focused on the task at hand.

  2. I am trying much harder to stop “multitasking”. I have been trying to focus on just the one task at hand until it is completed. If other things comes up during that time period, I will note them and then look at them once I have completed. If actual urgent things comes up, I will re-prioritize.

    It is interesting regarding the “anticipating interruption”. Whenever I am doing anything at the office, I always anticipate that I am going to get interrupted because it just seems to be common practice there, no matter what I try to do to stop it…

  3. I’ve heard some research on multi-tasking being less efficient, and I believe it. As a mom, I have to “multi-task,” i.e. handle constant interruptions, and it makes everything take much longer! And I’ve noticed that I get disrupted by email, or try to listen to a podcast while doing other things but then don’t remember what I listened to.

    1. I have that problem a lot, actually – listening to something while doing something else, I have no idea what I just listened to. I’m right there with you on that one.

  4. I’m like you — I realized long ago that I’m terrible at multitasking (like everyone, as it turns out), and so I’ve stopped trying to do it. I sometimes see colleagues working with the TV on (24-hour news cycle!), and with Tweetdeck taking up one monitor, and I just think, “No wonder your work is lousy.” I assume at some time society will have the pendulum swing back the other way, and we’ll realize the importance of focus and dedicated thinking/working/creative time. Or maybe the next generation will just evolve to be better multitaskers than we are currently. 🙂

    1. I used to be one of those people who had 24-hour news on, well, almost 24 hours a day. What a waste of time that was, and yes, somewhat distracting. All the best for the next generation and their ability to do multiple things at once while keeping productivity high! 🙂

  5. My new favorite podcast is Note to Self. I cannot gobble them up fast enough. The episodes on multitasking and information overload overwhelmed me in such a good way. I dedicated a few hours one weekend to cleaning up my smartphone, and I feel so much better. The whole Infomagical series is really inspiring. I cannot single-task when I teach. I try, but there’s always some “fire” somewhere that needs to be put out. I do try to sneak in a 2-minute meditation session with Calm during my break. It makes such a difference in my focus, mood, and alertness.

    1. Ah yes, the smart phone. Yeah, that thing can get way out of hand if we let it. I totally hate those things, even though they may have become a necessary evil these days.

  6. The more tasks I try to do, the less seems to gets done! My only trick is – since I’m an early riser – to get any important tasks knocked out early, before too many distractions can arise. This helps to take the pressure off, too!


    1. Just like you, John, I’m an early riser. I definitely find that I get the most done earlier in the day before everybody else wakes up. Makes a huge difference!

  7. I like to focus on 1 task at a time. The time cost of starting and stopping a train of thought or documenting where I was in a process is a huge overhead cost of multitasking.

    When I have to focus I close all social media and email and just do it. I also work better with deadlines since if I have to deliver at a certain time I am forced to focus and use my time wisely.

    1. “The time cost of starting and stopping a train of thought or documenting where I was in a process is a huge overhead cost of multitasking” – spot on right, and I never truly realized that until I started to do some actual research into all this. It’s amazing, actually.

  8. Ugh I hate multi-tasking so I try to consecutive-task. As in line the things I have to do in a row and tackle them one by one. I use the Pomodoro technique – so 25 mins on one task, 5 mins rest. Then if I have multiple things vying for my attention I will spend 25 mins on another task. Usually I work best if I can repeat my Pomodoro cycle at least 3 times for something like a blog post. But often for life stuff one cycle is enough to get it done, well.

    1. Sounds legit to me! At least 25 minutes of undivided attention is more than most people get, after all. We tend to be able to get through remarkable amounts of work if we just focus on one thing at a time. 🙂

  9. Yes but unfortunately at an interview they want to hear that you can multitask even though several studies have debunked multitasking. I know I suck at it and I’m not even going to pretend. Just another reason of why the corporate world is out of touch.

    1. It’s true that’s what most corporations want to hear because they naively think that multitasking is another word for productivity. Absolutely agree – another reason why the corporate world is very much out of touch.

  10. Ah multitasking – it seems when I am at home trying to get my to-do list taken care of, I’m doing this like crazy. Unfortunately, I always end up taking more steps with no direct path because I tend to forget what I was trying to accomplish while doing so! Work is the biggest challenge. I work in a more collaborative office environment, and we have email & an internal messaging system. It’s a lot to balance all of this, but I’m working on taking focus. Only having one tab up vs. 20, so I can focus on the one task at hand. I like the anticipation factor!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alyssa – yup, slowing down while doing your tasks is a huge helping factor as well, no doubt. I often find that when I rush, I don’t do my tasks nearly as well. And one tab instead of 20? That sounds splendidly awesome! 🙂

  11. I also used to think I was a GREAT multitasker. I started believing this when I was in college and prided myself on how great I was at it. I heard a speaker about 5 years ago – the guy who wrote “The Making Of A Corporate Athlete” – say how bad it is to try to multitask and I soon noticed how right he was. When it comes to emails, I turned off notifications and have adopted approach that I only peruse the inbox at 8am, 11:30am and 5pm. Anything more urgent, my team knows to call or text me.

    1. Amen to that, MrFireStation – if it’s important enough, you’ll call or text. Otherwise, it can probably wait until I am free. Love that working attitude! 🙂

  12. I think that is true to an extent, particularly as it exists for money. That is why I think Dave Ramsey is so successful. My problem is that I go back and forth between what I should do. My problem is that I try to multitask financially. Focus, focus, focus that is the name of the game.

  13. I have to say, the picture of the guy reminded me of myself. Well, except I am older,heavier, have lighter hair, and don’t were suits at work. However, I do feel like I have six arms working all at once.

    I struggle with keeping focused on a task until its completion – getting pulled away for the next information/time wasting event that has captured my attention and seems to be more important. Heck, I wrote this whole comment without multitasking – progress!

    1. Ha! Any progress is good progress. Sometimes we can’t control getting pulled away from our tasks (because: work). If only more companies knew just how damaging that practice is to productivity. Or, perhaps I should say, “cared”.

  14. Batching tasks has worked great for me. I’ll make sure to only check email twice a day… After that, they’re just going to have to wait.

    If things are really an emergency, people have my phone or they can come find me. They almost never do.

    1. “They almost never do” – ha! Yup, funny how that happens. If it’s convenient (email), then sure, why not make contact. But if it actually takes effort, then screw it, it can wait until tomorrow. 🙂

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