Why Multitasking is the Death Of Productivity

Why Multitasking is the Death Of Productivity

Why do we think multitasking is a skill?

I know countless job postings which claim that applicants “must be able to multitask” and yet, when we actually look at the research, not only is multitasking not actually a “thing” but it’s actually a great way of reducing your productivity. So why is it that employers feel the need to put it on job application criteria? Do they want us to be less productive and pay us to be that way?

I’m going to answer these questions below. But first. Why do we “multitask”?

You may say, “To get more done” or “to appear like we are working harder than we really are”, “To ‘stand out’ in the market place better”, or  even “to feel like we are more productive than we truly are”.

But the simple truth is that multitasking, though it may seem like it’s working, is really simply task switching and is in fact decreasing our productivity and results. 

Here’s why.

Two critical thinking – left brain activities, or two creative thinking – right brain activities, are not possible to perform with our current human monkey brains.


The single most important skill moving into the future will be task focusing or single tasking. 

In a world where we will have, and already have, seemingly infinite choices, multitasking seems to be the norm. But in fact, the most productive and happy individuals know that focus is key to success.

But Where’s the research on this?

After doing a little bit of research on the subject by running a quick search through google for the terms “multi-tasking” and “task switching” I was able to find the following:

How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work) – Forbes

Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again : NPR – NPR

Multitasking Damages Your Brain And Career, New Studies Suggest – Another Forbes article

Based on the articles here are the highlights:

  • Multitaskers think they are more productive then they are when they aren’t
  • People who frequently “Multitask” have difficulty organizing thoughts and are slower at “task switching”
  • IQ scores of “Multitaskers” decreased when they multitasked.
  • According to Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves…”

So, if I heard you correctly there is really no such thing as “multitasking”, at least not when it comes to thinking activities.

And I want to mention, if you are reading this and rubbing your belly in circles while patting yourself on the head, CONGRATULATIONS! you have successfully learned a duel motor-skill with absolutely no real world application…#losing

If you want to try truly multitasking, try playing the violin while doing calculus.

Or better year do accounting while trying to paint.

Solve a riddle while drawing shapes with your left hand…

Ok, So How Does One Go About Single Tasking? 

First you must create a list, then decide on which items need to be done first in level of importance. 

Then, you must turn off external distractions and trust in the list that you created being the path to reaching your destination at the end of the day.

You may be tempted to get distracted with social media sites, friend messages, and emails, but you must fight the urge to forego your most critical tasks for these nice little distractions.

There is a time and place for social networking and it is not during your productive hours.

Here’s a little exercise you can do

Get a blank piece of paper. (Yes, that ancient thing that people once used to use to convey ideas and messages on).

Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down all the things floating around in your head. All of your ideas and thoughts for everything you must do for the entire day, write them down write.

Once you have that list, now set another timer and write an “a””b” or “c” next to the task in level of importance. 

(A) These are the things that will make a major impact on your life, these are your “must do’s” or your critical tasks with time lines on them. Grocery shopping (you gotta eat), making sales (again, we have to eat), working on your business, working on projects that are mission critical for work, spending time with family, oh and going to sleep, etc.

(B) These are activities which are important but may not necessarily be urgent or may not drastically impact your life but would benefit you. These can include writing for your site, writing a book, working on building relationships with other business owners, conferences, reading books on your area of expertise, other personal development, family vacations, etc. 

(C) These are the nice to do’s or the things that really aren’t that important and if they don’t get done then it won’t really matter. Things like trying out that one restaurant that you’ve always wanted to try, watching tv, getting your shirts dry cleaned personally, disputing credit card transactions with the carwash down the street, taking out the trash, etc. Things in this category can often times be delegated. 

In Conclusion

Two critical thinking, or left brain activities, or two creative thinking, or right brain activities, are not possible to perform with our current human monkey brains. 

They are Duel core processors (if you will humor me) which allow for one critical thinking task at a time on either lobe. 

Detailed analysis of stocks while analyzing your search traffic? Nope. 

Want to write the outline for a novel while painting? Not going to happen. They both use the same areas of the brain. 

So why not give your brain a break and focus on just one critical activity at a time, scheduling out your time during the day, so as to accomplish the most important first, then trickle down to the next, and the next? 

“How to Master Your Time” By Brian Tracey.

It is a fantastic book, which you can get on audio as well, and you can listen to it while driving to work or while on the bus or train. In it you will learn how to effectively plan your day, how to delegate more efficiently and often, how to energize yourself with positive results feedback loop, and how to develop a sense of self worth from being the master of your own time even if you work for someone else at the moment. 

Also if you are a freelancer or a business owner and you do creative work, I suggest getting Timing. It’s a useful app that allows you to setup and seamlessly track activities that you do on the computer which makes tracking billing hours easy and seamless, allows for more accurate reporting, and even produces a productivity score on your work flow for better analysis. 

To download a copy of timing click here: timingapp.com

In a world with many distractions, learning to focus and track results is becoming an ever increasing skill. Learning to master your time and focus with laser precision will be the next step in your personal and professional development.




2 Responses

  1. Kristian says:

    That you for your thoughts Chris, it really does come down to them asking you to be LESS productive. Which only hurts them as you get less done but they are still paying you the same…

  2. Chris Childs says:

    Good article. Well thought out. Well written. And makes you think. All those people that tell you to multitask I really asking you to focus on multiple things. I agree with you in your conclusion. Thanks

%d bloggers like this: