171: Stop Trying to Multitask — It’s Making You Dumb and Ineffective

by Monica Harrison on February 27, 2018

Multitasking doesn’t save time — it wastes time.

When you try to do two things at once, you either can’t or won’t do either well. If you think multitasking is an effective way to get more done, you’ve got it backward. It’s an effective way to get less done. 

Every time we try to do two or more things at once, we’re simply dividing up our focus and dumbing down all of the outcomes in the process.

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”
~ Steve Uzzell

Researchers have found these surprising facts about multitasking:

  • People can actually do two things at once, such as walk and talk, but they can’t focus on two things at once. Their attention actually bounces back and forth.
  • Bounce between one activity and another, and you lose time as your brain reorients to the new task. We lose 28 percent of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.
  • The more time you spend switched to another task, the less likely you are to get back to your original task. (This is how loose ends pile up.)
  • Chronic multitaskers develop a distorted sense of how long it takes to do things. They almost always believe tasks take longer to complete than is actually required.
  • Multitaskers make more mistakes than non-multitaskers. They often make poorer decisions because they favor new information over old, even if the older information is more valuable.
  • Multitaskers experience more life-reducing, happiness-squelching stress.

Distraction undermines results. When you try to do too much at once, you can end up doing nothing well. Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention.

In this episode, Jesse shares what he’s learned from chapter 5 of the book The ONE Thing and provides examples of applying the lessons. His personal tips include:

  • Jedi mind training (also known as mindfulness meditation) to improve focus and resist distraction,
  • Minimal smartphone notifications,
  • Going off-grid for deep work, and
  • Email hacks to minimize distractions.

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