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Does Multitasking really increase productivity?

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

While multitasking seems like a good way to get more done in less time, it is something that can actually kill your productivity. When you multitask, you may believe that you are accomplishing a lot at once, but research has shown that our brains aren’t nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we think.

Recent studies have shown that multitasking can actually reduce your productivity by as much as 40 percent. So, what is it that makes multitasking so detrimental to your productivity?

While it might seem like you are accomplishing a lot at the same time, what’s really happening is that you are quickly shifting your attention and focus from one task to the next.

When you quickly switch from one thing to another, it can make it extremely difficult for your brain to tune out the distractions around you and can cause mental blocks to slow down your progress.

Recent research has shown that when you switch from one task to the next, your productivity takes a severe hit because your brain has to continually shift and refocus which takes precious time.

What's worse is that the more complex the task, the more time that you lose when you try to multitask. So, if you want to increase your productivity, you have to stop multitasking and start focusing your attention and energy on completing a single task at a time.

Let's consider the 80/20 Rule

Vilfredo Pareto originally developed the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. As an Italian economist, he determined that 80 percent of the world's wealth is owned by 20 percent of the population, while the remaining 20 percent is owned by 80 percent of the population. Not only does this rule apply to economics, but it can also be used in other aspects of your life, including your productivity or lack thereof.

The 80/20 rule states that 80 percent of your results, comes from just 20 percent of your efforts. This doesn't mean that you should only go into work one day a week and give it a 20 percent shot and then leave.

The 80/20 rule has nothing to do with time. Instead, it is suggesting that you need to focus your efforts and work harder in the areas that matter most while accepting that it is okay to let the smaller stuff slide from time to time.

You can apply the Pareto Principle to all aspects of your life and dramatically increase your productivity. When it comes to using this principle to your daily to-do list, you want to tackle two or three of your most significant projects, commitments, or tasks first. Rather than spending your time on the smaller, trivial tasks, you need to use your energy and time to complete the more significant items on your to-do list.

Take the time to prioritize them and recognize that you are doing so because those tasks will more than likely give you 80 percent of what you want. You can take it even further to increase your productivity even more. The 80/20 rule states that when you’re working for a long time on a task, you’ve most likely hit a majority of your goal after expelling 20 percent of your effort. This doesn’t mean that you should only spend 20 minutes on a task and then call it a day.

For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you may break down the process of writing an article into five individual steps.

  1. Write the draft.

  2. Look for grammatical errors.

  3. Find an image for the article.

  4. Correctly format it for the web.

  5. Set a date to publish.

The 80/20 Rule states that you'll get the majority of your results from 20 percent of your effort. More than likely, writing the draft will give you the most significant return on your effort. This means that the smaller details of the task will only account for 20 percent of your outcome, which means that while they are essential, you shouldn't stress or waste your time worrying about them.

When you focus your efforts on the tasks that will give you the most substantial return, you can increase your productivity and get more done in less time.

Try this instead of multitasking and see your productivity improve!

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