Multitasking: The Productivity Killer

Attachment: Post Planner

Do you proudly state that you have an innate ability to multi-task? Have you seen job descriptions that indicate multi-tasking is a necessary skill? The truth is, multi-tasking is very inefficient. It has also become a way of life.

This may sound familiar. You’re working from home trying to finish a homework assignment, a funding proposal, or a business plan, you’ve thrown in a load into the wash, have something in the oven and are waiting for a response to an email. On top of that, there is a small and very powerful tool that’s consistently buzzing, refreshing and updating with news, acting as a constant interruption to your train of thought.

I expect most of us would be very surprised if we kept track of the number of minutes spent every day checking our newsfeed or text messages. More often than not, these quick peeks, intended to last a few seconds turn into five or ten minute distractions that completely derail the task at hand.

As a millennial, I experienced the rapid transition of living in a computer-less home, to the painfully slow dial-up connection, to hi-speed internet and then the boom of social media. Like many women my age, I fell in love with it. In fact, I currently own and operate an online business and am employed as the Social Media Coordinator at the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba. Unlike many millennials, I can argue that social media has enhanced my life, transformed my career and presented me with new opportunities. Sadly, it has also inhibited my ability to focus, remain on task and read.

According to an article I read on Hubspot,

“each time we check email or Facebook or the news, we prepare ourselves for skimming, not for learning. In a way, we’ve conditioned ourselves to forget the information before we even read it. Our brains are less apt to focus, digest information, and convert it into our long-term memory. Instead, we have an increasing appetite for more stimuli.”

Since I began working at the Centre, I’ve spent countless hours online researching productivity, leadership, innovation and many other topics relating to women in business. I have been shocked by the number of articles arguing (and proving) that cell phones and social media have essentially changed the way our brains think, read and learn and have massively destroyed productivity in the workplace.

“Has my brain been altered?”

I recently challenged myself to read an entire article and absorb the information without allowing my eyes to dart around the page in search of additional stimuli. Sadly, it was incredibly difficult for me to do. This made me wonder whether cell phones and social media platforms were the enemy or if multitasking was the problem.

Given the work I do, I think that multitasking is the problem.

Social media is very time, cost-efficient and powerful way for business owners to market their brand to a large audience. It allows them to establish themselves as experts in their field, improve their sales and potentially build their success on a global level.

Trying to do too many things at once has been my downfall. In order to enhance my productivity, I do my best to follow these tips:

Create a Post Planner
Schedule posts for the coming week. By putting a plan in place, you will treat social media a marketing tool rather than a hobby. Engaging with followers is important for maintaining an online presence, so time for answering comments and liking others photos and posts must be factored into the plan.
* see attachment for an example post planner *

Avoid Falling into a Scrolling Hole
Have you ever launched Facebook, Instagram or Youtube to check something and all of a sudden 45 minutes have passed and you’ve scrolled and scrolled and scrolled back to the previous week? I call this a Scrolling Hole and it’s the easiest way to waste time. Time is money and social media is part of your business. Discipline is key. When you go online to upload your post, remain engaged with your community by scrolling back four or five posts to like and comment on… then log out. Your task is complete.

Prioritize Your Tasks
As an entrepreneur, you likely have A LOT of tasks to accomplish. Rather than focusing on five things at once, make a list of everything you need to complete in a day. While doing this, be realistic about how much time you have and prioritize them in order of urgency. When beginning your list, do your absolute best to focus on one task at a time and keep your phone out of sight until this task has been completed.

Workout Your Brain
Scheduling uninterrupted (no cell phones allowed!) reading time every day to re-train your brain to focus on one task at a time and absorb the information at hand. Although this can be difficult, it will become easier with a dedicated approach.

Cell phones and social media have changed the world for the better in many ways, but they’ve also allowed us to develop unproductive habits. This week, I challenge you to set aside your phone or other device and focus on one task at a time. Has your productivity level changed? Please share your feedback and comments.

– Ashley Wood