In today’s world of work, there’s often too much to do and not enough people to do it. So, we tend to work longer hours and try and pack more into each day. Many of us also have busy personal lives with responsibilities for childcare or elderly relatives, which adds to the challenge. This leads us to juggle different tasks at the same time. Of course, there are times when multitasking is useful and necessary. Sometimes we just need to get stuff done and the only way is to do more than one thing at a time. However, when we multitask our attention becomes switched between tasks, which research tells us can reduce productivity by up to 40%.
The habit of multitasking creeps into almost everything we do. The assumption is that if we’re not doing more than one thing at a time, we’re not working hard enough. But are we confusing quantity with quality? Many important tasks really require high quality and sustained attention, combined with mental clarity, for instance, solving a complex problem, writing a report, or planning a project.
Switching between tasks fragments our attention. We lose the thread, are more likely to make mistakes, are less productive, and increase our level of stress. Working in a perpetual rush, we end up feeling frustrated and dissatisfied, rarely finding the quality time and space to complete work we really feel proud of.