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June 11, 2011
Multitasking: The Silent Productivity Killer!
 
I have a multitasking addiction and don’t know what to do about it.
 
A friend of mine jumped all over me the other day for missing her birthday...for the second year in a row. Not so, I told her, I distinctly remember writing a very heartfelt email (ok, it was not an actual birthday card, but it was a start) acknowledging her special day. She was adamant in telling me that she never received it. I knew I wrote it and that she had probably just missed it.
 
As soon as I got back to my computer, I checked my sent folder and…there was nothing in my sent mail folder, nothing in my drafts folder, nothing in my deleted files folder. And then I spotted it; sitting there as one of nine open items I had on my desktop. I had written the note, but never sent it. Unfortunately, her birthday email was yet another casualty of my multitasking addiction.
 
I have concluded that multi tasking is one of the biggest impediments to being productive in the workplace today. The truth is that no matter how good we are, we can’t do it all. I now realize that it is not a badge of honor to take on multiple tasks or projects at the same time, it is an addiction.
 
In today’s heavy tech society, we just assume that emails, instant messages, tweets, and ringing cell phones will interrupt us. But research has shown that our multitasking lifestyle is actually impeding our productivity rather than boosting it.

"Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes," David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan said in a recent interview with the New York Times. "Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information."

Microsoft research scientist Eric Horvitz, found that workers at the Redmond-based software company took an average of 15 minutes to return to the task they were working on after being interrupted by a phone call, email, or instant message.

Fifteen minutes! It's a miracle that we get anything accomplished.

So, if multitasking is such a drain on productivity, why do so many of us do it? I guess that all of the technology that we have around us, such as Facebook, email, Twitter, and cell phones provide easy distractions.  Also, most people are unaware of the downsides of heavy multitasking. In fact, many of the job offers I see on TalentZoo specifically mention that the position requires the “ability to multitask”.
 
But you know what? I am done having multiple projects and tasks open on my desk at the same time or answering emails while on the phone. Iam ready to take conscious steps to stop it. I am going to slow down and stay in the moment. Give each task the attention it is due and move on.
 
Are there any reformed multi-taskers out there that can share their thoughts and ideas on how to further cure this dreadful addiction?

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Mark E. Brown is a personal branding expert, professional speaker, and business growth advisor. He has owned a number of award winning ad agencies and is the founder of Mark Brown Strategies, a communications and marketing agency. You can follow Mark on Twitter and on Linkedin.  

 
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