The High Cost Of Multitasking

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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22 comments… add one
  • Muhammad Hussein

    Wow. Awesome article to share with a couple of co-workers.

    Side question: which shortcode plugin you use to make those wonderful boxes?

    • Hey Muhammad Hussein – Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      I am using the Thrive Content Builder – it’s fantastic! Here is my affiliate link if you’re interested. I will probably do a demo post sometime soon since I like the plugin so much.

  • I like it- Question: When we block time to focus on one aspect of a project- when we have multiple projects- doesn’t that mean we are still multitasking? just on a different scale? or does the term lose its power once you are locked in on a set time for a piece of one project.

    • Hi @rjbryan:disqus – I see what you mean.

      It is sort of multitasking.

      What we’re really talking about here is working on two or more tasks that aren’t related. You spend time switching tasks and you lose momentum on your primary task.

      You can work on two different projects or initiatives in the same day (of course) but you should try not to work on them in the same work period.

      So you can work on two or many projects in parallel – definitely – and everyone has to do that.

      The main point here is that when you want to get something done – you need to work on that something by itself – with no other distractions. We can get in trouble when we switch back and forth on different things. That makes everything take longer and mistakes are more likely.

      Does that help? How do you view multitasking? Do you find it less effective than when you focus?

      • Yes, great breakdown. I commented because you didn’t mention multiple projects so I wondered if you thought about that when you wrote this post.

        I definitely think multitasking is a bad idea. I often lose track of where you were and the quality of the work decreases.

  • Grand

    Hi Doug!

    Thanks for raising the great topic – I totally agree on switching between tasks and how much metal energy it consumes. Eventually, in my view it all comes down to visualising end result and planning thoroughly first, which makes it easier to “envision” the path to the result – so each stage can also be planned and placed into specific time frame, like – on Monday I do this and this, then Thursday – this and this etc.

    Without planning it becomes much harder to understand what needs to be accomplished, and multitasking becomes the natural responce to not having a clear plan of actions.

    By the way, “The ONE Thing” – great book! I read it last year and it’s full of insights and wisdom even for those who knows a lot about productivity.

  • nice idea Doug

  • suresh

    Nice post doug really a good idea..
    Regards,
    Suresh.

  • Hey Doug

    Good stuff. Multitasking is definitely a terrible idea and The One Thing is definitely a great book. Hah.

    In fact, I’ve just written a new article on some of the science of multitasking. It’s pretty scary stuff with some studies showing that it can actually damage our brain in the long-run. You can check it out here if you like:
    http://www.njlifehacks.com/multitasking/

    Keep up the good work,
    Nils

  • Gabi

    Hey Doug,

    Great article!

    I never knew that multitasking was a bad thing until I got my hands on the audio book “The One Thing,” by Gary Keller.

    Strangely, the quote by Steve Uzzell is one thing that stuck with me from the book. That’s after I almost died laughing because it’s true and then from embarrassment when I realized I was bragging to everyone about how I could majestically screw up more than one thing at a time.

    It hit me so hard, I even remember the moment I heard it the first time, it was like a light bulb lit up.

    You know how us women like to brag that we can multitask?! Well, I stopped doing that! The bragging part anyway! I’m still working on not actually doing it.

    Now I don’t even open my emails while I’m working. I don’t answer my phone and I only facebook at set times.

    I was struggling to focus when doing keyword research (I think it’s addictive) because I’d come across a phrase totally unrelated to the research I was doing but it was an idea/niche I wanted to explore. And then I’d go off on a tangent taking me nowhere.

    Now, I have a notepad window open and copy/paste anything like that I find for later research. It’s helped a ton to keep me focused on the task at hand.

    Also, realizing that the sense of accomplishment from a to-do-list is false was an eye-opener. I’m training myself to create success lists instead.

    Learning new skills in productivity takes me some time. I’ve always ‘bounced around’ a lot and drilling down to that one thing can be tricky sometimes – well for me anyway.

  • Great read..

    I am facing the same problem. I am trying to study as my exams are near and at the same time I am working on increasing my Instagram followers and reach. And I am not doing that much great at both of them. Now I know the reason behind it. Will definitely use it right away. Thank you.

    Meanwhile you can check my blog post about how to work more in less time here.. http://www.edgylist.com/life-hacks/ultimate-guide-to-work-more-in-less-time/

  • Doug,
    Excellent article! I, too, try hard not to multitask and have been introducing my colleagues to studies that show a reduction in effectiveness when trying to multitask. I’ve pointed them to a 2009 Stanford study that showed multitaskers performed much worse in a number of brain-related tests than did a group of single-taskers. A recent article by Dr. Travis Bradbury mentions the Stanford research and other studies that support what Stanford found. Honestly, I figured that was that – don’t ever multitask if you’re trying to be efficient … but get this.
    Other recent studies show you can actually train your brain to be better (good?) at multitasking. California State in 2016 showed that certain multitasking abilities can be improved through training your verbal memory. In 2014, The University of Montreal did research that showed training provided through commercial brain-training software helped older people to multitask.
    So, I guess the best guidance is to reduce multitasking as much as possible to improve your efficiency. If, however, you just can’t do that, you can improve your multitasking abilities by doing the right types of brain training.

    Ref:
    Stanford: http://news.stanford.edu/2009/08/24/multitask-research-study-082409/
    Dr. Bradbury: https://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/
    California State: http://www.sccur.org/sccur/fall_2016_conference/posters/287/
    University of Montreal: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140820091050.htm

  • Hey Doug, great post.

    I multitask and it’s something that I’m trying really hard to quit.

    I tend to multitask when I’m watching a learning video so what I do is to turn the video on at 2x speed so it forces me to focus on what the person is saying.

  • I’m actually checking my inbox, reading your article and writing this comment while I’m doing something for my own niche website.

    “Think back to a time when you got A LOT done – I bet you were solely focused on your primary and only task.” <– This is definitely true. Having one task (to reach a specific goal) ends up making you much more productive.

    What I do to focus is I fire up my Pomodoro timer and focus on just that task to reach that one goal.

  • Wow !!!. Could you put back the popup ad where you say you sold a domain ?. It’s because I had to close it to avoid distractions.

  • Great article Doug?

    I always have a notebook with me(digital or on paper) where I put my ideas and tasks of the day/week/month … if I get distracted I go back to the “TO DO LIST” and get back on track.

    What I do to avoid some of the distractions,for example on my phone I place Facebook, LinkedIn etc apps on other screen pages so I don’t actually see the notifications !

    In some jobs, multitasking is a must, I say this having a Head Chef background, anyone working in the kitchen ??

  • reminds of what our teacher used to tell us back in primary school “busy doing nothing. i think that this issue and procrastination go hand in hand..i do not know you take on the later…but those two are the dream killers..

  • Colm

    Great article Doug, enjoyed it, makes a lot of sense.

  • Yes, I multitask but certain endeavors should not be multitasked….. know when to focus 100% and when not to.

  • Ah, so true. We all kid ourselves. I’m trying hard to use calendar blocking to allocate time to read articles, watch videos and catch up on messages. You’ve seen how a lack of focus and productivity can zap my energy and efficiency and I am hoping that teaching myself some discipline will really help.

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