Move over multitaskers!

Did you know single-taskers are more productive?

Credit: LifeHacker

Think you are getting more work done by multitasking? Think again. The more browser tabs you have open, the less likely you are to be productive.

While this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s scientifically proven that individuals who focus on a task at a time are more productive than multi-taskers.

The facts

The New York Times published an article that examined the case of multi-taskers. David Strayer, a professor of psychology, and his colleagues conducted research on how people master multitasking. Their findings? Only 2% of the population is effective at juggling multiple tasks. In further research carried out by the American Psychological Association, it was found that multitasking reduced productivity by up to 40%.

So, what is it about multitasking that makes it so bad for productivity?

Multitasking is an illusion, we’re tricking ourselves to believe we’re handling many tasks at the same time, but what we are really doing is simply switching from one task to another, back and forth, during that given period. — Dean Yeong, writer on high performance for creative people

Hiring manager turned career coach Lisa Quast offers some insight into why multitasking has a negative impact. She says that while we’re switching between tasks we’re actually wasting time trying to refocus and that it’s best to finish the task at hand first.

According to research by INSERM neuroscientists (image credits)

Switching to single tasking

Although it sounds easy, if you’re used to multitasking, it can be tricky to switch your mind and work habits to single tasking.

Think about the last meeting you attended. How many people actually sat and only engaged in the meeting? How many were making notes, tapping away on their laptops, or checking their phones, all while supposedly listening to what was being said?

Moving to a single task mindset might be difficult at first, but you can try these strategies to help you make the switch:

  • Try the Pomodoro technique
    The effective Pomodoro Technique was invented in Chile in the 1980s. You divide your day into manageable chunks of time, assigning one fixed task to be completed in a chunk, with short breaks in between. Completing more important tasks is a better approach as it help you clear the space in your head for the rest of the day. The technique doesn’t require any fancy equipment, all you need is a timer and your to-do list. Flock’s native To-Dos app makes listing your tasks simpler and helps you stick to your to-dos.
  • Work as a team
    We all know teamwork and team communication is crucial to a successful work environment. As a team you can decide on single task rules. This can include no mobile phones or laptops in meetings. Team collaboration is the key to making this method a success and team messaging apps are perfect for this.
  • Learn to say no
    We’re not used to saying no at work — especially to our colleagues or managers. This often results in us taking on too many tasks and scrambling to get them done.
    Learning to say no is important if you want to focus on single tasking and improve your productivity.

Team collaboration apps like Flock can help. You can control your messages and share calendars with your team to let them know when you have capacity to take on new tasks. It helps turn the potential negative of an outright ‘no’ into a ‘not right now’.

Ultimately, moving to a single task mindset will take practice and commitment, but with a little hard work you should quickly start to see how much it boosts your productivity and benefits your work life.