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Why Multitasking Isn’t the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread


The ability to multitask successfully is highly revered in the working world, because if you can cross more things off of your to-do list than your colleagues, then you’re a better employee. But according to an article by blogger James Altucher, multitasking isn’t always your best friend … it can also be your worst enemy.


(Photo Credit: Courtney Dirks/Flickr)

Just think of all the times that you’ve attempted to talk on the phone while doing another small task (like searching for a document) at the same time, only to find yourself continuously saying, “Sorry, can you repeat that again?” Multitasking is not impossible and can be helpful at times; however, doing it constantly throughout the day can be counterproductive and create more work for you in the end.

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Altucher makes a great point in his post when he states, “Multitasking can ruin your life. Even ‘multi-thinking’ can ruin your life.” When a person is juggling more than one task at a time, he tends to jump back and forth from task to task, often preventing that person from completing any one task successfully and leaving loose ends along the way. We live in a fast-paced, technology-driven society that encourages “killing two birds with one stone,” but multitasking seems to have resulted in creating distractions that prevent us from even remembering that we were looking for “a stone” in the first place. So, how do we break this norm of trying to do everything at once? Altucher provides three tips to break the habit:

1. Don’t multitask obviously disparate activities – Break away from the habit of trying to do more than you need to at once. If your kid or spouse wants your attention while you’re browsing your Facebook feed, then it’s probably a good thing to pay attention to the real-life person rather than the hyped-up posts by your friends online. You’ll find that shifting your attention away from the small distractions of the day (usually something having to deal with your phone or the internet) will help you be more productive in life and work, and less frustrated with others who interrupt your online obsession, and you’ll see that your happiness will probably peak a bit, too. Read more about how your internet obsession negatively affects your life, here.  

2. Don’t time travel – Dwelling on the past or worrying about the future is a form of multi-thinking and is a waste of time, so focus on the present, because that’s where your mind will be most productive. Anytime you catch yourself wandering off, switch your focus back to what you have control of now and forget the rest.

3. Don’t keep secrets – Altucher explains this tip as, “A secret is a multitask. You have to always be reminding yourself, ‘I can’t say this’ while dealing with the people around you. What a burden. Remember: you lose 95 percent of your abilities when you multitask. Imagine each secret you keep as another 95 percent loss of what you can potentially be.” Free yourself of secrets and free up space to be productive.

In short, the people who are able to break the habit of wastefully multitasking and begin the act of single-tasking (what a concept, eh?) are the ones who will be richer, happier, and more productive … well, at least, that’s what Altucher is implying. So, the next time you are trying to type an email, talk on the phone, search for a document, and eat your lunch at your desk, try focusing on the task that needs to get done first and then move onto the next. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you find that multitasking is lessening your productivity? If so, share your thoughts on Twitter or in the comments section below.

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Leah Arnold-Smeets
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