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Multitasking Makes You Less Productive

Man multitasks while driving car

TommL/iStock/ThinkStock

In this Article:

  • Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time.
  • Make a to-do list to get more done in a day.
  • Put away your phone to be more productive—and to strengthen your relationships.

Ever talked on the phone while driving? Texted while at the dinner table? Checked an email during a meeting?

With all the information constantly coming at us, you may feel unproductive if you’re not doing 10 things at once.

The funny thing is, trying to accomplish multiple tasks at once—or multitasking—actually makes you get less done. It also increases stress and can interfere with relationships.

Here’s how to stop.

1. Turn Off The Noise

Unplug from technology to maximize focus.

Despite popular belief, our brains can only focus on one task at a time. Each time your phone buzzes or email pings, your brain has to pull itself away from the current task and refocus on the distraction. These distractions make you up to 40 percent less productive.

When you need to focus, try turning off your phone, email, and social media notifications and check them only at scheduled break times. Following this rule will make you more efficient and better able to focus on the task at hand.

The same goes for relationships. Studies have found that having a phone in sight, even if it’s not being used, makes people feel less connected. Putting your phone away helps you be more present and focused in conversation. Whether you’re in a meeting, on a date, or just hanging out with friends, ignoring the urge to reach for your phone will boost feelings of trust and closeness.

2. Make a To-Do List

Do you feel like you have to multi-task to get everything done in a day? Here’s a quick fix.

Make a list of everything you need to get done. This will allow you to see all the tasks in one place.

While writing a to-do list, put the items you absolutely have to get done first at the top (for example, paying the power bill due tomorrow) and the less pressing items at the bottom (updating your music library can wait).

3. Schedule Out Your Time

As a busy Citizen-Soldier, your time is valuable, so treat it that way. Once you’ve listed all the tasks you have to get through, estimate how much time you should spend on each activity. Set a time limit to focus on only one item at a time. Experts recommend 20-minute intervals to keep your mind sharp. If time is up and you’re not making progress, move on to the next task. Come back to it later with fresh eyes and you’ll be more efficient.

Once your to-do list is complete with times allotted for each task, tackle one task at a time. Cross off each item as you finish it for an instant motivation boost.

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