Why Multitasking Is a Waste of Time


Here are four reasons why multitasking is ineffective for you and your employees. 

The hype of being efficient in businesses and elsewhere has led to many of us trying to do more than one thing at once. We greet someone when they walk into the store while we continue talking with a client on the phone – all the while updating the day’s budget sheet. When we get home, we often continue to multitask. How many of us are doing it right now? 

In an article written for Psychology Today, Guy Winch, a clinical psychologist and speaker on emotional health, gives us a few reasons why multitasking is harmful.

  1. Multitasking can literally reduce the size of our brain.

In a study by Loh and Kanai (2014), found “decreased cognitive control performance and socio-emotional regulation in heavy media-multitaskers” (abstract).

This is connected with reduction in grey matter, in areas that regulate motivation, cognitive control and emotion.

  1. Multitasking can cause memory problems.

Uncapher MR, et al (2016) “found that chronic media multitaskers exhibited weakness in both working memory (the ability to store relevant information while working on a task) and long-term memory (the ability to store and recall information over longer periods of time),” Winch writes.

The study reports four key findings which “suggest that chronic media multitasking is associated with a wider attentional scope/higher attentional impulsivity, which may allow goal-irrelevant information to compete with goal-relevant information. As a consequence, heavy media multitaskers are able to hold fewer or less precise goal-relevant representations” (abstract).

  1. Multitasking can make you more distracted.

One study found  that the more people multitasked, the more likely they were to become distracted. “Current assumptions are that by responding to so many distractions, one loses the ability to distinguish between important and unimportant interruptions,” wrote Winch.

  1. Perhaps the most important reason against multitasking: it decreases efficiency.

Multitasking just doesn’t work. Our minds aren’t wired to be so conflicted. Whether it’s social media or working in customer service, it’s best to do one thing at a time. Put assignments into chunks and do them one at a time. If helpful, practice the Pomodoro technique and take frequent breaks or completely switch from one task to another.

Studies show that you can accomplish much more work – and much higher quality work by placing all of your attention and focus on one activity at a time for short periods at a time.

Special thanks to Benjamin Brandley for his help in writing this article.

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