The myth of multitasking is so common, it is even a part of job descriptions employers create in order to find the right candidate for the job. However, the truth is that multitasking is not efficient or desirable. In fact, it is the opposite.
Lets look at this myth in more detail, why it is so harmful, and what you can do to overcome it.
Why Multitasking Is a Myth
Many people think they are able to do two or more things at the same time. The truth is, the brain is focusing on and switching between the tasks rapidly. This can produce a lot of wear and tear on the brain, and a good deal of stress.
It also means that each task ends up taking at least twice as long as it would if you were to just focus on one at a time. As the brain flicks back and forth, it also has to figure out where you last left off. Therefore, two chores that should take only 30 minutes each end up taking more than an hour.
There is no way most people can read their email, eat and talk on the phone at the same time, yet millions try to do it every day at lunch. They wolf down their food as a result, which is known as mindless eating. The emails sent back might have errors in them. And their phone conversations might be disjointed because they are not focusing on what the other person is saying to them.
Studies have shown that multitaskers make more errors and remember little of the work they do. They tend to rush the work and not put in the effort they should for a high-quality piece of work.
How to Deal with Multitasking
One way to avoid multitasking so you can work more efficiently and get more done is the so-called pomodoro method. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, and refers to a small red timer similar to one.
The pomodoro method is designed to get you to work on a project in one continuous block of time. You set the timer for 25 minutes and do as much work as you can on one task of your choice. Take a 5-minute break, then start again. At the end of three pomodoros, you get a 30-minute break.
Continue this throughout the day in order to tackle each task on your to-do list one at a time. You can also set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes and use the pomodoro method throughout your day to start accomplishing a steady stream of chores, which can all add up to a foundation for your success.
If you struggle with the pomodoro method because you are not sure you are getting enough done, keep a work log of 30-minute blocks and keep track of where you start and finish at the end of each block of time. Once you get used to the idea, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish through your “single tasking.” You should see an increase in productivity and quality, which your boss will be happy to see too.
Stopping multitasking can improve your work-life balance and even improve your interpersonal relationships, because you are less stressed and are probably putting in less time at work because you are working so much more efficiently.