Is Multitasking a Way to Be More Productive?

Multitasking – it’s a method of working that easily divides an audience: folks seem to embrace it or run from it.

Do you find multitasking productive? Or a time suck?

I think of multitasking as leap frogging. For instance, you start replying to emails, end up clicking on a link within an email, and then get lost in the endless world known as the Internet. One page leads to another leads to another leads to another and before you know it, an hour has passed and there are still several emails to reply to.

Do you accomplish more when multitasking? Is it the way you find the success that you want? Or do you think multitasking sets you up for failure because you don’t get much accomplished?

Like anything, I don’t think it’s absolutely-multitask-all-the-time or avoid-multitasking-all-together. There can be a balance; it’s a matter of finding what works best.

Confession: As I wrote this post, I kept checking e-mails and managed to get sucked into the Internet through one of those ‘read more’ links like I mentioned above. <grin> So instead of just cranking through this blog post in 30 or so minutes, it took me a couple of hours. Multitasking did not benefit me in this instance!

Multitasking does work at times, though. For instance, when I’m in a waiting room or in a line – I can reply to and clean out old emails, sort and save emails, and schedule activities and events. Similarly, if I’m waiting for something to update online, I can reply to inquiries on Twitter and Facebook.

How about you? Do you find multitasking beneficial in saving time or a way to extend the time taken on tasks?


LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with Lisa on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

21 thoughts on “Is Multitasking a Way to Be More Productive?

  1. It depends with me. If it’s an “on” day, then I’m brilliant with multitasking. If I really need to focus on ONE THING ONLY, I have to force myself to do just that. Otherwise I get nothing accomplished.

  2. Works fine when I am involved in non challenging tasks, such as working on planning. But not when I am writing, Lisa. Then I have to focus. The only thing I want to hear are words in my head and my fingers on the keyboard. –Curt

  3. I always multi-task. After a while, it gets to me. I know that it’s not the best way or the healthiest way to conduct my life; but like other people, my obligations tear me in different directions. Eventually, my productivity suffers. Even so, I feel I have no other choice but to multi-task on a daily basis or I fall too far behind.

  4. For me, balance is the key; each day differs, depending on my writing task for the day. Sometimes, I Must “go away from the story” and then return to it with fresh eyes. {Also, I am so much better at letting the daily housework tasks go.}Reading others’ writing experiences/work helps me to learn and to move forward with my own writing life. And, when I am fostering puppies, or visiting my grandchildren, I am able to spend time interacting and observing their little behaviors, which is Great for creative writing ideas ❤ !! I think that we can always glean something creative from each moment in our lives, if we really stop and think about it.

  5. This is the monster most of us struggle with, I suppose. Consider that the internet, with many portions of it designed to attract us with shiny bits, clickable bits, with information about everything and anything, and entertainment an amusements at our fingertips, any time we want to log on.

    And that’s the danger. I have a treasured boss who is on a listserve, and that listserve is a HUGE waste of time, though sometimes it provides useful information. Our office would be much more highly productive without that listserve intruding.

    So balance is what we need. Each individual has differing levels of discipline and ability and self-control. If your discipline is low, then multitasking isn’t for you, because you’ll magpie again and again and nothing will be accomplished. If you have high discipline levels (it’s like a blood test), then you know you have two minutes and that’s all, then it’s on to the next thing.

    The good news is that a person’s inability to focus and stay on target is a conflict and you can write that into something, and it may ring truer for your experiences with it.

  6. Maybe a limited focused multitasking during certain activities..only some interruptions allowed. Laundry. While writing tends to shout “don’t stop, you’ll lose train of thought”, shuffling stuff in and out of the washer/dryer is just a few steps away and I can continue thinking…and see a pile of clean clothes indicates something “productive” was accomplished…

  7. I’m an OCD with the touch ( a touch? more a huge dullop) of restlessness. No, not ADHD. But who knows… Multi- tasking is a second nature to me. I can’t hold my interest longer than five minutes. I write while watching TV and having deep conversation and cooking at the same time. I need to be busy with a lot of things to keep myself sane. Or otherwise my mind wanders to places I avoid going to at all cost.

  8. I end up multitasking because I have so much to do and become distracted but I believe it’s important to place all your effort into one thing for a period of time before switching. When I can make myself focus I sink deeper into what I’m doing and feel like I finish faster and it turns out better.

  9. It’s a time suck. I’m guessing that there may be a traditional gender bias in here somewhere, but I’ve always been convinced that jobs we multi-task only get half done. Anything you need to do to a high standard of quality or finish demands your full attention.

  10. I used to be a great multi-tasker…or so I thought. I’ve found that as time goes by, I prefer to really focus on one project for a limited amount of time rather than a host of them simultaneously. I feel like the quality of effort is improved as a result…

  11. It depends what you are doing. If you are writing an essay, multi-tasking may not spoil your thoughts but it will spoil your articulation of them. If you are feeding a family and sending off a few e-mails it lessens the tedium, so who cares whether or not it is more efficient?

  12. I’m with everyone who says it depends on the task. I can multitask when combining one fairly mindless activity (washing dishes, walking somewhere, riding public transport, etc) with something that requires attention (a phone conversation, catching up on emails or news, etc). But then, there’s also something to be said for practicing mindfulness even in mundane tasks. Washing the dishes alone can feel restful if you just let it be what it is.

    On the other hand, I actually think something like writing and checking emails is not multitasking but allowing yourself to get distracted. Taking breaks is one thing, but if you get sucked into the Internet rabbit hole, you’re no longer multitasking–you’re just off task! 🙂

  13. I can only productively multitask if one of the tasks is mindless, like waiting in line or being on hold….. otherwise, nothing or very little productive is accomplished! I also agree with Jean Brown, there is a lot to be said for mindfulness in ordinary tasks!

  14. I generally find that I’m much more efficient when I dedicate myself completely to the task at hand — unless it’s one of those moments in a waiting room, or waiting for a download to finish, as you mentioned. I have a hard time bouncing from answering an email to working on my blog, so I try to move through my to-do list one at a time with breaks in between for the emails, phone calls, etc. I wish I could multitask more!

  15. I usually multitask when I want to *feel* productive instead of *be* productive. It’s usually what happens when I have too much energy and not enough direction.

  16. I am particularly bad at multitasking (some would say to me, “Yeah we know, that’s because you’re male!) I have this distorted view of the task-switching process being SOOOO much effort and time consuming that it not worth changing tasks. May as well stick to one thing and finish it. Unless there’s something really cool to read/watch/do/listen to… Then it’s all out the window!

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