The multi-tasking myth

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Multi-tasking myth“I’m great at managing my time – I’m a multi-tasker!”  The truth is only one in twenty people actually become more effective when multi-tasking. However, by learning how to be focused, complete individual tasks and get things done, you’ll ultimately save yourself hours.

Most people have embraced a dangerous myth that multi-tasking is a great way to save time.  The truth is only some multi-tasking will achieve this – the majority may slow you down.

Multi-tasking can increase stress

Research has shown that only one in twenty people remain equally focused on two tasks when trying to complete them simultaneously.  The rest of us will lose up to 40% of our effectiveness, increase our levels of stress and waste valuable time.

Even sending a text at the same time as you’re watching the telly can mean you having to rewind the programme to see what you’ve missed.

Of course, there are some things you can do without losing too much focus and time. Having a conversation with your kids while you make dinner or listening to a radio play whilst doing the ironing shouldn’t distract you too much.

Task trading

There’s a clear challenge with the slightly more focused tasks. Rather than doing two important things at once you end up “task-trading” – meaning you have to switch from one task to the other.  By trading your attention, you end up wasting your time, focus and energy. So two simple 20 minute tasks can end up taking an hour!

Here’s what to do:

  • Limit yourself and focus on five tasks
  • Set yourself a target time to complete a whole task e.g.: pay the bills online –15 minutes; prepare dinner – 20 minutes
  • Complete a whole task before moving on to the next
  • Create a small reward for completing each task
  • When you get distracted remind yourself: focused = faster = free!

Michael Heppell is a “success coach”, and an expert in organisation and time management. With a style described as “shot-gunning a bucket of espresso”, Michael works with individuals, multi-national corporations and everything in between. His books – the most recent of which is How To Save An Hour Every Day – have been translated into 18 languages.