Is multitasking good or bad? Is it good for your brain? Does multitasking decrease your productivity? Is it useful? These are some of the questions that so many people have asked in the past and continue asking now, and it seems like there a division between those who are “pro multitasking”, and those who think that this word is even forbidden to say out loud. In this blog post, I’m going to share my own thoughts and opinions in regards to multitasking, and I will say whether I believe that multitasking is good or bad.
Have you ever watched Harry Potter? If you have, you’ll remember how Voldemort’s name was forbidden to be said out loud, and people would refer to him as “you-know-who” or “he-who-must-not-be-named”, and I feel like the word “multitasking” produces the same effect in some people! Jokes aside, I know that many people think that multitasking is impossible and that you should avoid doing it at all costs.
There is a lot of research out there proving this point, and showing how working on multiple tasks at the same time, can actually have an impact on your concentration, your productivity, and ultimately, your brain health. I OBVIOUSLY will never go against these findings because we’re talking about science, I’m not a doctor and I definitely believe that this research is true.
I’m not completely against multitasking. Now before you exit my blog and stop reading my content, let me explain. I believe in the RIGHT way to multitask because I’ve been doing it for years and it’s actually helped me to stay on track with my goals and maximize my time as much as I can.
What does Multitasking mean?
Let’s first start with the definition, just in case we have any doubts about it. According to Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of multitasking is “the ability to do several different jobs at the same time”. I also find it interesting that the example they use to explain this is context, is about women’s multitasking skills. If you are a lady and you are reading this, you probably know that is true. We are always trying to do multiple things at the same time, because we genuinely have many things to do and responsibilities to attend! By the way, I think you should definitely check out my post on how to write a to-do list for productivity. But, for the sake of our mental health, productivity, and peace, we need to learn to do it the right way. So I’m now going to talk you through a few examples and strategies that you can implement. And, if you are a busy boss lady, I do encourage you to take some time out for yourself regularly so you can avoid burnout. Learn more about how to start taking care of yourself with a self-care routine.
What is the right way to multitask?
I believe some people call it task integration, meaning that they combine two or more tasks at the same time to maximize the use of their time and be able to accomplish as much as possible throughout their day. However, in this method, the key is to combine tasks that require different parts of you and your brain, so that you can actually do more things at the same time and still be efficient and productive. If you’re not sure about what I mean, I’m going to give you a few examples in a minute, but before I do that, I’m going to share with you what I DON’T do and mean when I talk about multitasking (or task integration):
- I don’t watch TV while I’m working
- I don’t work on multiple projects at the same time (e.g. switching between different clients’ tasks at the same time)
- I don’t scroll through social media or answer any emails (even if they are work-related) whilst I’m working on a specific task
- I don’t talk to anyone if I’m focused and working on something
- I don’t read or study in front of the TV, while listening to the news, or when listening to a podcast
Are you starting to see a pattern for how I don’t multitask?
I don’t engage in activities that both require me to use my brain; just as I can’t workout and cook at the same time because there is only one me, I also apply the same principle to my brain.
However, these are some examples of what I do:
- I listen to a podcast while I’m cleaning
- I put on a face mask and do other activities around the house or do some work whilst I wait for my mask to be dry
- I prepare some food and continue working/reading/studying while the food cooks
- I exercise while listening to a podcast or watching a TV show
- I read a book or study whilst I’m on the train
As you can see, these types of activities never include using my brain for all the tasks at the same time, but it’s about combining a task that requires my concentration, with one that I can do mindlessly.
When I have a face mask on, I normally have to wait between 20-30 minutes before I can wash it off (skincare junkie over here!). So if I’ve got something to do, instead of wasting that time scrolling through Instagram, I choose to get some work done. If I’m cleaning the house, I don’t really need to think carefully about what I’m doing, so I can play a podcast (which is one of my favourite ways to learn about something) whilst I get that boring house chore done.
I think I started integrating tasks and really maximizing my time when I started looking after children. If you have kids or are someone that looks after them, you will know that every minute of your time is very precious, because taking care of children is very demanding.
So for example, when I had babies or toddlers who used to nap during the day, I used to bring to their house my books or laptop and do work for University while they slept for an hour or so. I could have spent that time doing nothing or chilling on my phone, but I really wanted to make the most of my time. When I used to travel to one of the families’ houses, I’d have to spend 1h on the train each way, so I always had a book with me so that I could have my reading time there, since by the time I’d be home in the evening I’d be too tired to do that. And when I worked for a family who lived a 30 minute walk away from me, I would walk to their house every time so that I could fit in a quick power walk and do my cardio session instead of trying to make time for it after the workday was finished and I was exhausted.
Now that you have a clearer picture of what I mean by multitasking, is this starting to make more sense? And if you are thinking about trying this out, I suggest you follow what I do as an example and start with one thing only, because remember it’s all about the small changes. If this works for you, then consider implementing it in your life regularly, and I know that you will “magically” find you actually have more time to relax in the evening because you will have been very efficient with your time during the day.
Final thoughts on multitasking for productivity
Multitasking in itself is not bad if done in the correct way and it can definitely have positive effects; just make sure you plan your schedule in a smart way and see what tasks you could be combining to make the most of your time.
*Quick disclaimer: this post is entirely based on my opinions and personal experience. I’m not a doctor and I’m not giving a scientific perspective.*