For More Productivity, Try Less Multitasking

Posted by on Mar 1, 2007 in Success!Ezine For You



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2007

Not getting as much done as you need to? Quality of your work suffering? How much multitasking are you doing? It may seem counterintuitive, but doing less may get you more – especially if you work on complex tasks and are trying to do more than one of these at a time. Though technology enables us to tackle many things at once, our brain typically prefers to do one thing well and then move on to the next, rather than to juggle back and forth between different tasks. It takes time to shift from one set of mental instructions to another, reducing your level of efficiency and productivity in the meantime. It also generates stress. Though you may only make little mistakes, these add up and you still have to backtrack and spend time correcting errors while trying to catch up. Focus your attention and watch how much more you get done in the long run.

  • Decide What’s Most Important

Prioritize. Rather than working on many things at once, learn how to figure out the most important tasks you have to tackle and chip away at them one by one. Prioritization is a critical skill, and enables you to focus your attention and energy on the tasks that require them most. Many people avoid making a decision about what’s important because doing this makes you accountable and responsible for actually getting something done. It means completing tasks when often those that occupy the highest rank are the most boring, taxing, or otherwise unpleasant. Thus, it’s much easier to toggle back and forth between many less consequential activities because it makes you feel like you’re accomplishing a lot. Force yourself to stay focused and get those top priority items out of the way.

  • Don’t Act On Impulse

While working on a project – particularly one that’s very boring – it’s extremely easy to feel repeated impulses to get off-task. Try to resist the temptation. Difficult tasks need steady determination and perseverance if you’re going to complete them successfully. Stay on task until you consciously determine that you’ve spent as much time as you can on it for now and that you are going to take a break to clear your mind or to work on something else for a while. Then leave it alone. Give the new task your undivided attention and finish it up before you quit for the day or return to the first task. Tell yourself: “I keep thinking of other things to do because I really want to get away from this difficult task. But it’ll only be sitting here waiting for me later so I won’t stop to do anything else now. I’ll take a break in an hour and can do something more interesting then.” This type of self-talk will help you settle yourself down and keep your mind focused so that you can get the job done.

  • Wean Yourself Off High Stimulation

We live in an age of high excitement and are used to having many stimuli bombarding our senses at once. Try to get used to a little less – at least while you’re at work. Try to tolerate more quiet. This will help you focus more intently when you need to. While you might be required to answer all of your desk calls, rarely is it necessary to immediately take every cell phone call, look at each incoming e-mail, or to plug into your I pod – all at the same time. It will feel strange at first, but you can get used to less stimulation and you’ll be surprised at the difference in your level of efficiency and productivity once you can think straight.

While it’s not the end of the world to multitask and it’s certainly fine to do so when necessary, it’s nothing to brag about either. Get better at riveting in on one task at a time so that you can give it your best effort. You’re certain to find that you’re getting more done — with fewer mistakes — and that you’re retaining more knowledge about what you’re doing because you’re now paying better attention. A fringe benefit is that your nerves will be less frayed. That’s reason enough to give multitasking a rest.


About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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