Multitasking Kills Productivity: 5 Ways to Fight Back

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Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, there are always temptations to do more.  

While you’re trying to finish a proposal, your phone buzzes with text messages. Your kids can’t seem to stay focused on homework while you’re trying to finish dinner.

Try to get it all done at once, and you’ll struggle to accomplish much of anything. The reason? Your brain wasn’t built to multitask: Just 2.5% of people can multitask effectively.

Where does that leave the remaining 97.5% of us? In need of new ways to optimize our productivity. 

Multitasking alternatives

Instead of stretching yourself thin on multiple tasks, try training your focus on just one at a time. Here’s how to do it:

1. Get ahead of distractions.

There are so many distractions around us: notifications on our phone, the talkative coworker in the cube next to us, political news blaring from the television.

Before sitting down to work, get your workspace right. Shut off the notifications on your digital devices. Buy noise-cancelling headphones so your coworkers’ conversations don’t implode your brain. Ask the kids to go play outside. 


Every time you lose your focus, it feels impossible to attain again. Context switching, which is what our brain does when during a distraction, can cut your productivity by 80%. Keep it to a minimum. 


2. Chunk your time.

How long can you work on one task? An hour? 30 minutes? Maybe just 10 minutes?

If you can’t seem to focus on just one thing, break down big tasks into manageable, similar pieces. If you’re doing research for a proposal you’re writing, perhaps research one topic for 10 minutes and then move to the next. This approach minimizes context switching while keeping the mind interested in the larger task that needs to get done.


Time blocking is another smart approach. Split up your day into 15-minute blocks of time. Make sure you schedule something for every block, even if it’s just hanging out with the kids. Remember, relaxation time is valuable, too. 

3. Categorize tasks by effort.

If you pool together answering emails and putting together a marketing report into one category, you’re going to be in trouble. Those tasks require drastically different amounts of mental energy.

Answering emails is something you can do without using a lot of brain power. Composing a report is something you should sit down in a quiet room for a few hours to do. 


When time-blocking your schedule, arrange tasks by how challenging they are for you. Work on your most mentally taxing tasks when you’re fresh and have the most energy. Reserve your laid back tasks, like responding to emails, when you’re lower on energy. 

4. Schedule something that focuses you. 

In his book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller suggests using tasks that create focus as nodes for your schedule. What’s that one thing that, if you did it, would make your day more productive?


Think about it. Maybe it’s only checking your phone after you get your important tasks done in the morning. Perhaps it’s going to the gym every evening so that you start the next day with a good night’s sleep. When you schedule a priority that restores your focus, it’s easier to fight the frantic feeling that encourages multitasking. 

5. Keep your workspace clean.

Did you know that there is a direct correlation between productivity and clutter? If you want to avoid the pull to multitask, having a clean work space can make a major difference.

Start with the easy things. Studies show that paper is the No. 1 source of workplace clutter. Throw it away, or better yet, recycle it. Then organize the rest of your desk: Are there pens laying around? What about coasters or coffee cups?

Chaos begets chaos. When your desk area is clean, you’ll feel mentally cleaner as well.
stay productive. 

Behind all these tips is a single theme: mindfulness. When you’re aware of yourself and your surroundings, you can give full attention to one task at a time. Be present whether you’re typing an email, eating lunch, or watching the kids. Focus on one thing, and forget the rest until it’s time to tackle them. 

About Jon Bradshaw

President of and Experienced Co-Founder with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Strong business development professional skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Business Planning, Sales, Market Research, and Management.

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