According to a recent study only 2% of individuals can actually, truly multitask without a negative toll on their overall productivity. Not only is there not a negative impact on their work, but they are operating at a high level of productivity across all tasks the entire time. These people are known as supertaskers.
If only 2% of people are capable of true multitasking, then what are the rest of us doing? We are definitely doing harm to our productivity and we’re engaged in something called task switching.
Multitasking involves performing multiple tasks simultaneously without a degradation in speed or quality of each. Task switching involves hopping from one task to the next. In this case, you aren’t completing the task before you switch, and this ends up taking a toll on your overall productivity.
The problem with task switching is the energy, time, and focus it takes for your brain to hop from one task to another then enter a focused state wherein you’re concentrated enough to perform well at that task. Then PING! we’re ripped from that task by an email notification, text, or chat and we jump from one, to the next, to the next.
When we come back to the original task, we have to retrain and refocus our energy just to get back to the state of flow we were in before that notification… PING!
Task switching isn’t free. It costs time, accuracy, and productivity which all equates to lost revenue.
According to Susan Weinschenk Ph.D.
In an article called The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking on PsychologyToday.com: It takes more time to get tasks completed if you switch between them than if you focused on one at a time. The task switcher makes more errors when switching than if they focused on one at a time. The time and error “penalties” are exaggerated as the complexity of the tasks increase.
Multitasking is not an age specific talent
Young people are no more likely to be able to effectively handle many simultaneous tasks than an older person. Texting while walking is a pretty good indicator of this. Even more poignant an example is someone texting while in the middle of a conversation with you. We’ve all been there and can see that they’re definitely not multitasking. They’re just disregarding your existence at that moment which is made evident by you having to rehash the last 3 minutes verbatim once they come back to reality.
One loophole in these studies is that the research shows people can only perform one cognitive task at a time. Meaning, you should be able to perform a physical task that comes as second nature to you - walking, eating, etc - at the same time you’re involved in a cognitive task.
So, how do we use this to our advantage in our line of work?
Just knowing this can put you at an advantage in scheduling and organizing your day to get more done than the next. It encourages you to spot those events in your agenda that will put a higher cognitive load on you, and block out a large chunk of uninterrupted time to knock it out quickly and with accuracy.
Additionally, knowing which tasks are low on the totem pole for mental bandwidth can help you pair those accordingly for some planned “multitasking” time.
2 Tools To Combat Distractions and Get Everything Done
In regards to notifications pulling you into unplanned tasks and stealing your cognitive bandwidth, the simple answer is to set your devices to do-not-disturb for certain times of the day.
For the incessant PING! of the new email notification I prefer Boomerang for Gmail (or Boomerang for Outlook).
Boomerang for Gmail / Outlook
Boomerang is an email app that allows you to do a lot of things: from seeing how many people clicked a link in an email you’ve sent, scheduling the time and day you’d like to send an email, or snoozing emails that you don’t want to address until later in the day/week/month/year.
But, the coolest feature of Boomerang is the ability to Pause Your Inbox.
Pausing your inbox is a critical feature that allows you to deal with emails on your terms. Without emails constantly filling your inbox one by one at random moments, you can better allot your time to more important tasks at hand and eliminate the distraction.
If you get tons and tons of daily emails, batching your replies and inbox-checking to just a handful of times throughout the day is more productive than trying to deal with each one individually as they come in. For the high priority individuals in your contact list, you can easily set exceptions as not to miss something critically important.
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We would be remiss if we didn’t include Discovery Litigation Services as a great tool for automating your deposition planning and scheduling. Discovery’s online scheduling platform allows you to quickly upload your deposition notice and pass the ball onto us so you can focus on the rest of your case.
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The Discovery Litigation Services platform allows you to remotely monitor your ongoing deposition, quickly navigate exhibits and deposition video, while providing a simple system for invoicing and ebilling all rolled into one web-based package.
For more information about how Discovery Litigation Services can handle your deposition requirements…
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Working hard doesn’t have to be hard. We live in a technological age wherein more is expected of us in less time. With free instant communication, more and more gets piled on while sucking up more of our time. Luckily there are tools and tactics we can employ to actually get more done.