Ever started a report, speech or presentation only to hit a challenge within minutes? The solution is obvious: you open your email to stay productive as you try to clear your mind.
If this is you, you’re far from alone. But if you stopped multitasking, you’d probably find that you get jobs done 40 per cent more quickly, innovation psychologist Amantha Imber said at Yahoo Finance’s inaugural All Markets Summit in Sydney on Thursday.
Related story: The miracle effects of a 5-hour working day
“Multitasking is basically just switching tasks, but sometimes switching tasks really fast,” she said.
Can the brain multitask?
However, when we multitask two things happen to our brains, she continued, quoting research from Professor David Meyer from the University of Michigan.
“So let's just say I'm sitting at my desk writing a report and I decide I'm going to do a 'just check' of my emails because my report's feeling a little tricky,” Imber said.
“The first thing that happens is goal-shifting. My brain shifts goals and says, ‘Okay, my goal is not to write this report, my goal is to check emails.’
“The second thing that happens is rule activation. My brain drops the rules for how to write a report and opens up the rules for how to read and respond to emails. Then I remember that I'm meant to actually be writing a report and so my goals shift.”
All of a sudden, you drop the rules for email and open up the rules for how to write a report. And all of this takes time.
In fact, it takes multitaskers around 40 per cent longer to complete a task than if they were just focusing on the one job.
How to work smarter not harder
That means that if you work a 9-5 day, by monotasking, you should be able to get the exact same amount of work done but leave at 2:30pm.
“Be a monotasker and if you catch yourself task-switching throughout your workday again, just remind yourself that you are making things take 40 per cent longer than they have to.”
Make your money work with Yahoo Finance’s daily newsletter. Sign up here and stay on top of the latest money, news and tech news.