Does Multitasking Kill Your Focus and Productivity?

Alyssa Gregory
Alyssa Gregory

multitaskI like to think of myself as the master of multitasking. Realistically, I may not be a “master” per se, but I do it a lot, and it has become a standard part of my work process. Of course, just like everyone else, I sometimes try to do too much at one time, get overwhelmed and have to step back and regroup. But it’s a periodic and short-lived problem, and most of the time, I am multitasking away. I can’t imagine working differently.

But not everyone feels this way. In fact, there are numerous articles out there on multitasking and how it not only hurts productivity, but also can damage your health.

According to The Autumn of the Multitaskers in The Atlantic, multitasking dumbs us down, increases stress and ages us prematurely.

The American Psychological Association says that multitasking costs us extra time when we switch from one task to another, especially when the complexity of the tasks increases.

How NOT to Multitask – Work Simpler and Saner on the Zen Habits blog states that multitasking is less efficient, more complicated, and can be crazy.

While these articles certainly have merit and make valid points (I can’t deny that multitasking can be crazy sometimes!), I have to disagree that the concept of multitasking is a bad one. In fact, I will even go so far to say if you are goal-oriented, driven, and thrive on the challenge, then multitasking is the only way to work. And here’s why:

It’s necessary.

I’m busy. I work a lot, have a young and active family, and even like to take time off. The only way I can possibly maintain a level of productivity and do the things I want to do each day is by multitasking. I wouldn’t be able to accomplish much without it.

It stimulates energy.

When I am moving back and forth between projects, I get energized. It’s exciting and fun to be able to change my focus on a whim. And it prevents boredom.

It makes priorities realistic.

There may be no better reality check than realizing you are trying to do too much. When I hit that wall of overwhelm and overwork, it’s a clue that it’s time to revisit my priorities and to-do list and do some weeding.

It’s a feel-good way of life.

At the end of the day, multitasking allows me to get a lot accomplished. I feel good when I wind down and realize that I hit most of my targets by working fast, switching focus and spreading my attention.

Having said that, I should point out that sometimes I avoid multitasking, for example, when I am writing and editing. While I am a multitasker at heart there are times when it’s not productive. And that’s when I go into my sole-focus mode.

Plus, I would have to say that multitasking is probably not efficient and productive for everyone. In fact, I agree that it can be dangerous if you tend to get overly stressed, distracted by having too much going on, and unable to dedicate enough attention to the task at hand to do it successfully.

But, for me, I will continue to multitask and enjoy every second of it.

Are you a multitasker? Do you think it makes you more or less productive?

Image credit: Mark Goddard