In our "always connected" modern world some people seem to delight in pointing out how good they are at multitasking. It is is even something that people put on CVs or mention in job interviews as positive points. If you are one of those people then you may not like what I am about to write, but please get past the initial frustration. Hopefully I can help you see the light.
MULTITASKING DOESN'T WORK!
A growing body of evidence has been coming out stating that people who can focus their time and attention to only do one thing at a time actually achieve a lot more than those who try to multitask. Now you may read that and think "Not me. I am actually really good at multitasking and I know it." Unfortunately the very same research makes it clear that you are probably even worse than most. That's right, people who think they are good at multitasking are generally fooling themselves psychologically and could achieve about 30% more if they "single-tasked".
There is one small caveat to this statement. About 2% of the population have a very different brain structure and can indeed multitask better than the rest of us. But statistically there is a 98% chance that you do not fall into this group.
So do yourself a favour, turn off your social media notifications, close that extra browser window with your email inbox constantly refreshing. Choose the times when you will do these tasks and do everything else better and quicker, just one thing at a time.
If you want to find out more about this topic, including some of the research behind these statements have a look here for an article co-written by Caroline Webb, the author of How to have a good day which has been one of the most impactful books for me this year:
And if you want further proof here is a link to allow you to test yourself to see how you really do with attempting multitasking. Obviously bear in mind that it isn’t a perfectly controlled test so the the results are only intended to illustrate the point. It takes about 8-10 minutes to do and should help to show how you operate when doing many cognitive tasks compared to just one thing at a time.
In case you are wondering, I am definitely not in the 2% who can multitask. I have happily embraced the benefits of single-tasking.
Dr Chris Harper