Why Multitasking Destroys Your Productivity

Most entrepreneurs I know are proud of their “multitasking” ability. But maybe they shouldn’t be.

The term was originally applied to computers – to describe the way a CPU solves problems by scheduling tasks and switching back and forth from task to task until each one gets done. Well, that may be an efficient way for a computer to work, but it’s anything but efficient when it comes to your productivity.

Dave Crenshaw wrote my favorite book on the topic, and I recommend it to anyone who still thinks and feels that multitasking is cool. On page 29 in The Myth of Multitasking, he writes:

“Around the end of the twentieth century, some wordsmith saw the connection between our increasingly hectic world and the world of the computer. A catchword was born.

Newspapers began peppering their articles with the word. Talk show hosts began using it with frequency. Magazines began publishing articles about how to multitask more effectively.

Multitasking quickly became as popular and accepted as the automobile and the hamburger.”

Dave Crenshaw has a more accurate word to describe flipping back and forth between two (or more) activities. He calls it “switchtasking.”

Multitasking or switchtasking reduces your efficiency (your ability to do the right things) and your effectiveness (your ability to do things right) because it forces you to keep changing your mental focus. During the switchover time (less than a second, in most cases), your concentration diminishes and the number of mistakes you make dramatically increases.

In fact, many states (including California) have outlawed multitasking on the highway by making it illegal to speak on a handheld mobile phone while driving a car.

“A mere half second of time lost to task switching can mean the difference between life and death for a driver using a cellphone, because during the time that the car is not totally under control, it can travel far enough to crash into obstacles the driver might have otherwise avoided,” reported Dr. David Meyer from the University of Michigan.

Okay, so let me ask you a candid question. How many of the following common multitasking activities do you engage in?

  • Writing e-mails while speaking on the telephone
  • Checking voice mail while speaking to your spouse
  • Reading the newspaper while listening to the news
  • Watching TV while having a family conversation
  • Tweeting while instant messaging while

I’m guessing you’ve done “all of the above” at some point in your adult life. But my point isn’t to nag you about multitasking. It is to make you conscious of how destructive it can be.

It’s not only mentally stressful to splinter your attention (and make mistakes along the way), multitasking sets you up for failure… and the guilt of not completing everything you set out to do.

Stacking vs.Multitasking

Now if you do two things at once but can keep the majority of your attention on only ONE of those things, that’s a whole different animal. I call this stacking. Dave Crenshaw calls it background tasking. (You can call it whatever you wish.)

Stacking helps you get more done, faster and better. It is a productive use of your time because only ONE of the tasks you are doing requires mental effort.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Eating dinner while watching a video
  • Jogging while listening to your iPod
  • Driving while listening to the radio
  • Writing an e-mail while printing out a document
  • Munching on a snack while riding a bicycle
  • Listening to the news while showering
  • Reading a book while getting a haircut

Stacking doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll become more effective (by doing the right things), but it can practically guarantee more efficiency (doing things right to get maximum results in minimum time).

Stacking & America’s Middle Class

Henry Ford didn’t invent the car, but he did figure out how to produce automobiles that were within the reach of the average American. And I believe he did this by preventing his workers from multitasking.

Prior to his introduction of the assembly line to the manufacturing process, cars were individually crafted by teams of skilled workmen. But instead of having one team work on one car, from start to finish, he created a stacking environment where the cars came to the workers – and each worker performed the same assembly task again and again.

The stacking power of the assembly line reduced the time it took to manufacture a car from 13 hours to less than six. That made it possible for Ford to offer the Model T for $825 when it made its debut in 1908. Four years later, the price dropped to $575. By 1914, Ford claimed a 48 percent share of the world’s automobile market.

What to Do Now

You can stop the insanity of multitasking right now by listing two or three multitasking activities you commonly engage in at work or at home.

Then, the next time you catch yourself multitasking, stop. Take a moment to think about what you’re doing, and quickly choose one of those tasks to focus on first. Complete that task before you switch to the other one.

I think you’ll find that this automatically makes you more efficient, more effective – and feeling a lot better about yourself for getting multiple jobs done right.

[Ed. Note: Alex Mandossian knows a thing or two about success. He has generated over $233 million in sales for his clients. And in the past three years, he increased his own revenues from $1.5 million to $5 million. You can get Alex’s advice and practical marketing tips for info-publishers, small-business owners, and entrepreneurs for free at www.AlexMandossianToday.com.

Interested in making between $50,000 and $5 million – starting this year? Find out how to do so right here.]

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Since 1991, Alex Mandossian has generated over $233 million in sales and profits for his clients and partners via'electronic marketing' media such as TV Infomercials, online catalogs, 24-hour recorded messages, voice/fax broadcasting, Teleseminars, Webinars, Podcasts and Internet Marketing.Alex has personally consulted Dale Carnegie Training, NYU, 1ShoppingCart Corp., Mutuals.com, Pinnacle Care, Strategic Coach, Trim Spa and many others.He has hosted teleseminars with many of the world's top thought leaders such as Mark Victor Hansen, Jack Canfield, Stephen Covey, Les Brown, David Allen, Vic Conant, Brian Tracy, David Bach, Harvey Mackay, Robert Cialdini, Harv Eker, Bobbi De Porter, Michael Masterson, Joe Vitale, Gay and Katie Hendricks, Bob Proctor, and many others.He is the CEO of Heritage House Publishing, Inc., a boutique electronic marketing and publishing company that 'repurposes' written and spoken educational content for worldwide distribution. He is also the founder of the Electronic Marketing Institute.