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The Multitasking Myth: Are You a Culprit?

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Juggling many activities decreases your productivity by 25 percent.

I slip into multitask mode when I know I shouldn’t. I check email when I’m on a call,  should be writing, on my phone (not, of course, while I’m driving). Are you a multitasking culprit? 

Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, wrote a great blog in the Harvard Business Review’s HBR Blog Network: Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By. The first myth is my favorite.

Myth #1: Multitasking Is Critical in a World of Infinite Demand

“This myth is based on the assumption that human beings are capable of doing two cognitive tasks at the same time. We’re not. Instead, we learn to move rapidly between tasks. When we’re doing one, we’re actually not even aware of the other.

If you’re on a conference call, for example, and you turn your attention to an incoming email, you’re missing what’s happening on the call as long as you’re checking your email. Equally important, you’re incurring something called “switching time.” That’s the time it takes to shift from one cognitive activity to another.

On average, according to researcher David Meyer, switching time increases the amount of time it takes to finish the primary task you were working on by an average of 25 percent. In short, juggling activities is incredibly inefficient.

Difficult as it is to focus in the face of the endless distractions we all now face, it’s far and away the most effective way to get work done. The worst thing you can do as a boss is to insist that your people constantly check their email.”

Read the rest of the Tony Schwartz’s blog post here.

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What’s your #1 best time-management tool? Comment here and continue the conversation.

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