The Myth of Multitasking: Why it’s actually killing your productivity

Quick: What do clowns and woman managers have in common? They’re both great jugglers. 

But you might want to save that skill for the circus folk — turns out multitasking is a real productivity drain.

It used to be the mark of a great manager, especially professional women. They could handle multiple things coming at them, from multiple angles, all with ease.

In recent years science has proven that ping-ponging from thing to thing takes a serious toll on how much you get done and how well you do them all.

Not only that, but multitaskers can’t tune out distractions as well as your peers who take things one at a time. You might even be impairing your cognitive ability. Specifically, people who multitask eventually struggle to sort out relevant information from relevant details.

The good news: You’re not doing any permanent damage. The current research out there suggests that if you stop multitasking you can undo the negative consequences.

Getting the job done (one job at a time)

Of course stopping is easier said than done, especially when, as women we’ve been conditioned to think that being a master multitasker is a badge of honor.

Think about your smartphone  – even when just on your phone you’ve likely got four or five different apps going at once – answering an email, fielding texts, updating your calendar and maybe squeezing in a round of Candy Crush. And what are the odds you’re only on your phone?

Instead you want to embrace the idea of single-tasking.

But there are ways you can recondition yourself to focus on a single task (or at least fewer ones) at one time:

  • Tap the 20-minute rule. Instead of jumping back and forth between writing up that team members’ performance review and creating an agenda for Thursday’s meeting, spend 20 minutes on the review and then turn to the agenda for the 20 after that.
  •  If you must juggle, limit it. When you absolutely positively can’t stay with a single task, keep it to just two things.