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Make the switch to stop multitasking

Mark Quadros 6 min read
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Are you reading this blog post while preparing your coffee?

Or maybe you have a few different tabs open—work email, that sweater you’ve been eyeing?

Like most of the world, you’ve probably relied on multitasking one time or another with the popular belief that if you perform multiple tasks at once, you can get the most out of your time.

Research suggests otherwise, most of the time. In this blog post, we’ll put a spotlight on some of your multitasking habits that could be having negative effects on your productivity and of course—what you can do to bust it with Work OS.

Is multitasking bad or good?

Multitasking is performing more than one task at the same time.

When you consider multitasking, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. In fact, some would claim they actually perform better when they multitask—they have no issue to pay attention to multiple tasks at a time. Let’s think about this with a concrete example.

What are examples of multitasking?

For example, especially in the era of remote work or working from home, the chance for multitasking is much higher. Whether it’s watching television while writing a brief or—yikes—mid-meeting scrolling through social media, multitasking can easily creep into your routine.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller doesn’t mince his words on the matter,

“Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said.

“You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”

Using a fidget spinner or other sensory tool doesn’t constitute multitasking, but many other actions can take away someone’s full attention and affect their productivity in the long term. You may know a few of these examples of multitasking well:

  • Switching between tabs
  • Answering notifications in the midst of working on a project
  • Responding to emails while listening to a podcast.
  • Driving a vehicle while taking a meeting.
  • Talking on the phone while greeting someone.
  • Tracking social media accounts while creating new content.


Is multitasking bad or good?

In theory, multitasking enables you to get a lot more done at once. But the reality is that this is nothing but an illusion of productivity. When you choose to focus on one task rather than occupying your mind with multiple cognitive tasks, studies show that you are less likely to:

  • Make mistakes
  • Work at a slower pace
  • Make poor decisions

Here are three potential costs of multitasking:

Cost 1: You lose sight of what’s important

Our brains are designed to focus on one thing, so bombarding it with information can make it harder to assess things like priority and urgency. Ironically, constant task-switching triggers a dopamine response in the brain—and this encourages us to keep switching between tasks to gain this feeling of instant gratification.

Ultimately this leads to a dangerous feedback loop that gives you an illusion that you’re accomplishing a ton aka ‘fake productivity.’ In reality, you possibly have spent too much time on one task over another, or let others slip through the cracks.

Cost 2: You lower your efficiency

Employees, students, and everyone in between that are focusing their attention on too many things at once, unintentionally make it easy to get distracted and lose focus on completing the task.

What’s more, multitasking makes it difficult to remember things as your brain is shifting functions that lead to loss of efficiency. To be precise, an estimated 28% loss of the average workday! Ultimately you’ll end missing your targets despite putting in longer hours because you’re inefficient.

Cost 3: Your brain will feel it

A study at the University Of London revealed that multitaskers experience significant IQ drops—the same as those experienced from losing a night of sleep. Multitasking also increases the production of cortisol, a hormone that causes stress.

Sleep Advisor recommends avoiding multitasking after a poor night’s sleep as your brain activity increases in certain areas to make up for lack of sleep, but your ability to focus suffers.

The outcome? Multitasking will make you feel like you’re working tirelessly, making more errors than usual, and taking much longer than average (a sure-fire way to burn out). Keep all of these in mind the next time you ask yourself, “Is multitasking good or bad?”.

How to use to curb multitasking

 So how can you avoid distractions and be more productive at your workplace? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to productivity, but a good place to start is by being mindful of what’s most important—and being able to visualize and organize this information.

Here’s a couple ways to trump multitasking and how can get you there faster.

Strategy 1: Manage work by the week

The idea is once you organize your workload, you have everything laid out for you. So now you’re spending more time doing as opposed to thinking about what to do next. I recommend creating a task board to break up complex workweeks into smaller actionable days and setting a clear agenda to each day. With, you can easily divide boards into weekly iterations, assign priorities, and add details like due dates. With My Week, you can even see items due across boards and workspaces.


Strategy 2: Create a workflow free from distractions

Here are a few actionable ways to help you create a distraction-free workflow:

  • Start with your environment: identify what tends to pull your attention away the most (emails, social media, coworkers, etc.).
  • Once you find the root cause, eliminate it from your workplace— for example, use productivity apps to block off social media for hyper work periods. You can also use the time tracker feature to see just how much time you spend on these tasks, and even as a friendly reminder for when you start to drift to another task.
  • Is the way you see your tasks distracting? With you can put every single tasks in one place and then use a number of views to organize them your way. Here’s one of our Kanban boards.

Free yourself from multitasking the smart way

Multitasking and productivity do not always go hand in hand. Instead of wearing your attention thin, focus on setting yourself up for success by organizing your time and tasks better— so you can focus on what’s matters the most.


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