Why I Quit Multi-Tasking

I’m pretty damn good at doing 50 things at once. All in the one breath I can toggle between six jobs, answer emails, do a bit of research for an upcoming project, intensely debate who was best dressed at the MET Costume Institute Gala, book Alfie into swimming classes and plan what I’ll cook for dinner!

Recently though, I had one of those lightbulb moments – maybe multitasking doesn’t make me nearly as efficient as I think it does.

A little bit of research later and my hunch was proved correct. The brain does better when it’s performing tasks in sequence, rather than all at once. In fact, our productivity goes down by as much as 40% when we do several things at the same time.

You see, the human brain doesn’t multi-task like an expert juggler. Instead it switch-tasks. By rapidly shifting from one task to another,  that brain has to change gears and then change back again, which loses time and is less efficient in the long run.

So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been mono-tasking. Since old habits die hard, I turned off all distractions (email, phone, internet) and used the Pomodoro Technique to focus on one task at a time. Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980’s, the Pomodoro technique is split into five easy peasy steps:

  1. Choose one task that needs to be completed.
  2. Set a timer (i.e the Pomodoro) to 25 minutes. I used this app.
  3. Work on that task until the Pomodoro rings.
  4. Take a short five minute break.
  5. Every four Pomodoros take a longer break.

And you know what? Not only has the tick-tick-ticking of my Pomodoro improved my efficiency, it helped me be mindful of changing my multi-tasking mindset. It certainly hasn’t been an easy change to make, but when I  see that it is win-win for my productivity, concentration and stress levels, it’s one new habit I’ll be sticking with.


Over to you now: Are you a multi-tasker or mono-tasker? When are you most efficient?

Image: Apartment Therapy
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