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Multi-tasking: Productivity Booster or Stress Inducer?

How many times have you heard someone boast, “I pride myself on being a great multitasker? Truth is, in most instances, multitasking leads to distraction. Distraction leads to taking longer to get things accomplished. And, taking longer to get things accomplished leads to increased stress – - “I have so much to do and this is taking me so long.” Or, “I can’t believe the morning is half over and I still have all of these things on my list.”

Rather than decrease stress, multitasking can increase the feeling of overwhelm and lead to even more stress. Think about it. Multitasking, in most instances, doesn’t mean you’re doing two or more things at the same exact time. It really means you’re taking a break from one to do the other- -even if for just a couple of seconds or minutes. But, every time you do that, you have to spend some amount of time re-focusing on what you’re switching to before you’re actually productive. Mark Shead’s recent post on Manilla Blog does a great job explaining this.

I was reminded of this today. While writing this post I was also logged in to Facebook in the background. So, I was easily distracted when a message popped up from a friend and colleague with an answer to a question I had sent earlier. Rather than finish what I was doing and then checking my Facebook message, I thought, I’ll answer this quickly and then get back to writing.  Well, you can guess how that went, right? I shot off an answer and went back to writing. She responded quickly, so I took another break to respond to her response, and so on it went for about 10-15 minutes. But, each time I came back to writing, I had to re-read what I had last wrote before continuing. And, a few times, I completely deleted what I last wrote because I either didn’t like it or my thought process wasn’t going to the same place.

Moral of the story…don’t stay logged in to Facebook while working. Ok, that was too easy and too obvious. The real moral of the story is, be present, demonstrating  intentional focus on “the task” at hand. Shift your perspective from one of being proud of your multitasking capabilities to being proud of your power to focus and dwell on what you want to accomplish.

As long as you’re already focused on reading this, I’d love to know your thoughts now before you go off to do something else. 


2 comments to Multi-tasking: Productivity Booster or Stress Inducer?

  • Social media is always something to make me distracted. In addition to not staying logged into social media I add disabling notifications of email and anything else that’s not critical and can distract you. Pop-up notifications for emails and social networking (computer or phone) are the worst.

  • Good point, Jared. I also have my notifications set for “critical” items only And, even then, I have disabled most, if not all, pop-ups or auto text notifications. This morning, I accidentally left myself logged in. I remember when I used to use outlook and it would place a pop-up in the corner of my monitor every time I received an email. I originally thought it was great, but soon realized it was a major multi-tasking distraction.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment here, Jared.

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