Want to Be More Productive? Then for Goodness' Sake, Stop Doing This!
What I'm about to elaborate on is not new. This piece of information is not complicated either. But for some (highly frustrating) reason or another, it seems the majority of today's workforce blatantly disregards it.
You are not a multitasker. No one is. There is no such thing as a "good multitasker." Believing you are one is destroying your productivity.
There's always a lot going on in your brain and body simultaneously. But your brain - neurons, synapses, transmitters, all that jazz - processes commands one at a time.
The human brain is so amazingly quick and powerful that it can seem like you're doing multiple things at the same time. In reality, your brain is cycling through those commands one after the other after the other after the other. This does two things.
First, multitasking keeps you from doing your best work. You're splitting time, power, and focus between multiples tasks (or distractions).
Doesn't it make sense that you'll do better work if your time, power, and focus is all directed at one thing? You put more into it, ergo you get better results.
And because you're splitting resources between multiple things, you expend more brain power than you otherwise would, which means you run out of steam far more quickly.
There's only a limited amount of daily brain power in each of us, and when you're making yourself work harder to complete the same tasks, you're going to run out more quickly.
Some of you will undoubtedly read this and think that I and all the scientists who conducted these studies are off our rockers. You're thinking that you're a "multitasker," and you feel good about it!
If you always did less than your best, you'd recognize it, right? Wrong. And there's a few reasons why that might be the case.
The most probable reason is that all of your multitasking is distracting you from the quality of work you're doing. You're doing so many things that everything feels good. But it's not. You're just distracted.
Also, that feeling of getting more done because you're doing more contributes to the reward system of your brain, which makes you feel even better about your work. You think it, therefore it is.
Another possible answer is that you've never really done work that wasn't multitasking or inundated with distractions. You have no basis for comparison.
I come at this aggressively, because hearing someone say "I'm a great multitasker" is my version of nails on a chalk board. It's not true. It only hurts us to think that multitasking is okay, much less that we can do it "well."
Our brains don't do multiple tasks simultaneously, they go back-and-forth between tasks really quickly, tiring us out and keeping us from doing our best work. If you want to be more productive, stop multitasking.