When I was young the world appeared to be quite simple.

My immediate circle of life only stretched to the present moment and what I was surrounded with at the time, namely my family.

Life involved starting each day with a healthy homemade meal, going to work or school, spending free time cultivating my hobbies, socializing, enjoying another great homemade meal and watching TV or a movie before bedtime. With the arrival of a computer life became more complicated. Suddenly there was the additional need to spend time on the computer and juggle computer time with the six other members of the household.

Finally I went off to college and all technology was mine for as long I wished, but the seemingly free time for everything changed drastically. My circle expanded to include classes, time spent as a student worker, socializing around campus and all the while trying to carve out time for homework, hobbies and other necessary items.

This was when multi-tasking begin.

Multi-tasking is the art of getting several projects, tasks, to-dos and other items done all at the same time. My question is, in the name of productivity who decided multi-tasking was a good idea?

When related to systems and technology the background process of multi-tasking is great way to increase speed and productivity. However when it comes to human task completion and project management I claim that multi-tasking is irrelevant and actually decreases productivity.

The main reason is lack of focus:

Concentrating on too many items at one time keeps the brain from focusing. Sure, as humans we can work on many projects and tasks; our brainpower is exceptional if we can tap into it. However productivity is increased by focusing on one task or idea at a time and completing it before getting distracted and moving on to the next.

How to stop multitasking and start being productive

  1. Make a list – write out the top 5 -10 items you need to complete today in order of how long or how hard they are.
  2. Set a timer – start with the hardest task and focus on it for a limited amount of time, you’ll be surprised how much you get done when you simply focus, stay within your time limit, and wrap up that item.
  3. Stop thinking and start doing – too many times we spend time planning, creating lists, and mindlessly researching when everything we need to complete the project is right there. Just get started and if there are extra tasks to accomplish the overall project, take it one step at a time.
  4. Switch it up – setting a timer allows you to focus on a project for a limited amount of time, whether it is 10-30 minutes or one hour. Once you feel your brainpower going down, switch to the next project for a fresh start and keep going.

What helps you stay productive and on target throughout the day?

Share in the comments below!

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