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Multitasking makes you less productive. Here are 4 ways to actually get work done

According to psychologist Gerald Weinberg multitasking actually can kill your productivity by up to 80%.

Multitasking makes you less productive. Here are 4 ways to actually get work done
[Source photo: Siri Stafford/Getty Images]

You may think that you get more done by multitasking. However, according to psychologist Gerald Weinberg multitasking actually can kill your productivity by up to 80%. This means that while many people spend their lives multitasking, they are unfortunately working at odds with what contributes to success and are not using time productively nor performing optimally. In fact, one study found that just 2.5% of the population multitasks effectively.

Here’s why multitasking is so harmful, why so many of us do it, and what you can do to actually get work done.


What many people may not realize is that true multitasking is not what they think it is. Doing multiple activities at the same time is actually “task switching.” This is incredibly inefficient for the brain (especially if the tasks are unrelated or unfamiliar) and every time we switch between tasks, this takes fractions of a second. If you are doing this constantly, the cumulative effect can be mentally fatiguing. While it may lead you to believe that you are accomplishing more, task switching has a detrimental effect on productivity. It decreases focus, increases feelings of stress, and exacerbates impulsiveness.

When you force your brain to constantly switch gears, you have to work harder to do things at a lower level of quality and exhaust your mental reserves.

We often multitask because of what we have been programmed to believe. We have been trained to believe being busy is good. Being addicted to busyness is one of the only addictions that is widely celebrated. However, focus can help you meet and exceed your goals at work and in life.

Some people may be able to focus on many things at the same time. But for the majority of us, it is better to focus on doing a few things well—rather than trying to do everything.

Here are four ways to make sure that you’re working more productively.


According to the Pareto Principle, 20% of what you do produces 80% of results. It might make you feel good to think that you are “doing” and therefore, achieving, but doing, by itself, does not necessarily mean anything in terms of results—especially if they are the wrong things to focus on at that time. The problem is that most people don’t know what those 20% of activities are that they need to be doing.

Not all tasks are created equal, so in trying to do everything, you make things harder than they need to be to achieve the result you want. My advice for anyone struggling to be productive is to spend some time reflecting on what your 20% activities are.


Next, I recommend that you devise a strategy that will help you accomplish your goals. Having a strategy does not mean it needs to be super complicated. The best strategies are simple and focus on three to five goals, and then allocate dedicated time for those things, so that you can do them well.

This may include implementing focused deep work practices, batching work, and limiting or removing distractions, as well as creating “white space” in your diary. Because you’ve already put thought into what those few things are and created time to do them well, you’ll end up moving the needle faster.


Another thing you can do to be more productive is reduce what’s on your plate. Once you’ve done the exercise to identify your priority activities, start removing the other things you do and put them into three buckets: Delegate (if the work needs doing and delegation is possible), defer (if it’s not important right now), or delete (if it serves no purpose to be doing that activity at all).


Last, you should embrace systems, processes, and technology because they make your life easier. The reality is that unless you take time to think about how you can implement these, you are more likely to stay on the treadmill. Review, implement, and tweak proper systems in your work, and leverage tech, and you increase productivity and performance.

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