Why multi-tasking is a waste of time

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Today is a slow day. The weather is cold and miserable, still occasionally kicking the January blues, the internet is being slow, even my trusty MacBook is having an off day. Which can make ticking off that long to-do list a rather arduous task. Do you ever have days like that?


One of my biggest issues in life, and as a business owner, is that I spend much of my day trying to multi-task. I always thought that really successful people, and people that generally have their ‘shit’ together were pretty good at multi-tasking.  I could often be heard saying ‘Oh yeah, I’m the queen of multi-tasking’.  And as a women, I’m supposed to have it off to a fine art, right? But do you know what I’ve learnt recently? That multi-tasking is by far one of the worst things you can do for your business, your brain, and your general health! In fact, research has shown that multi-tasking (or context switching as it’s also known) is bad for your head, and your overall mental well-being.

What is multi-tasking or context switching? 

Quite simply, it means trying to do multiple things at once. But what it actually means (hence the context switching term) is spending an amount of time on one thing, not finishing it, and then switching to something else. Have you ever noticed how, when you multi-task your head simply hurts? Most of my days go a bit like this – Check emails, check Facebook, lose time looking at Facebook, write my to-do list for the day, begin a task, remember that I need to also be working on another task and another, emails flood in again so best check these, phone rings, lose concentration altogether, get distracted by interesting email, head back to intial task on to-do list… and so it goes on. Back home it’s not much better – I start one thing, get half way and then move onto another.

If your working day/evening/general life looks somewhat like that then no wonder you’re not achieving what you need to do, you feel stressed out AND your head hurts.

So, STOP. Right now. Stop multi-tasking, trying to be super woman/man, and focus on things on a smaller more level. Here are a few tips I’ve be *trying* to master.

Write your list the night before 

I’ve started writing my ‘get shit done’ list the night before. This means that when I get up I already have my agenda set out. It also means that when I go to bed I don’t have a million things in my head that keep me from sleeping. Trying to stick to it can be hard but the rest of these tips should help …

Chunks of time 

Time is your most valuable resource, so use it wisely.  One of the best ways to avoid context switching is to add an amount of time to each task and set a reminder on your phone or calendar for when it needs to begin and end.  If you give yourself a deadline you’re more likely to get things done when you’re under pressure, so start setting yourself micro deadlines.

Switch off email and your phone

No, not forever (although can you imagine the blissful state your mind would be in?). When you’re focusing on a specific task, stop your emails from notifying you and try to resist the temptation to check them.  The same goes for your phone.  Try to avoid anything that will distract you from the task at hand.

Make your actions bitesize 

If you write on your list ‘finish website copy’ or ‘plan event’ you’ll never have the accomplishment of ticking it off your list for today.  Break it down into manageable chunks. Planning an event might involve booking suppliers, visiting venues or buying decorations. These are your actions.

Use task management tools 

Some of my favourite tools are Basecamp and Google apps, they help me to manage my time more effectively and I can keep documents in one place and schedule my content. But I’m also a bit old school and I have a ‘proper’ diary and notebook that I carry around with me to keep me on track.  Use tools to help you.  Even if it’s just diarising your to-do list in your calendar with alarms and alerts.


And don’t forget to take a break every now and then.  Move from the computer, stretch your legs, or just relax and enjoy a cup of tea!

Do you have any clever tricks that help keep you organised?

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