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Should I Avoid Multitasking? Why?


“According to neuroscientists, our brains aren’t built to do more than one thing at a time. And when we try to multitask, we damage our brains in ways that negatively affect our well-being, mental performance and productivity.” – Mayo Oshin.



Multitasking is often seen as a “must-have” skill in the modern workplace. However, it may not be the productivity booster it is commonly perceived to be.

Recent studies have shown that multitasking can significantly decrease work quality while increasing cognitive stress, leading to errors, memory loss and depression.

Focusing on a single task at a time allows for deeper concentration and optimal productivity.

This article explains why avoiding multitasking and favoring more deliberate and focused work strategies can significantly improve productivity, work quality, and organizational well-being.

What is Multitasking in the Workplace Mean?

Multitasking in the workplace refers to the act of attempting to handle multiple tasks simultaneously or switching rapidly between different tasks.

Why Do We Feel the Need to Multitask?

It is accepted that multitasking increases the amount of work we can complete.

Additionally, the modern work environment, with its constant influx of information and demands, pressures individuals to complete multiple tasks simultaneously.

Societal norms and expectations sometimes glorify busyness and multitasking, leading people to perceive them as necessary skills for success.

What does it Mean to Avoid multitasking?

Avoiding multitasking means focusing on one task at a time rather than attempting to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously.

“Instead of bouncing back and forth between tasks and tabs, efficient workers dedicate chunks of time to a certain task. For example, they might spend 20 minutes reading the day’s news and then move on to their next assignment for 20 minutes, and so on.” – Dana and David Dornsife.

Why is Multitasking Reducing Employee Productivity?

Multitasking diminishes employee productivity due to the brain’s inability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously effectively.

Research conducted by the American Psychological Association has found that constantly switching between tasks incurs a cognitive cost known as “task-switching,” leading to slower task completion and increased errors.

Moreover, multitasking disrupts the brain’s executive functions, impairing goal-setting and rule-activation processes essential for efficient task execution.

Additionally, the perception that multitasking is synonymous with productivity is deceptive, as individuals may overestimate their ability to manage multiple tasks concurrently, resulting in suboptimal performance. 

What is task-switching?

Task switching occurs when a task is voluntarily or involuntarily interrupted in order to pay attention to another job.

How Does Multitasking Impact Mental Health?

Multitasking adversely affects mental health by inducing stress, decreasing attention span, and contributing to feelings of overwhelm and burnout.

The constant demand to juggle multiple tasks increases cognitive load, leading to unhealthy stress levels. Furthermore, multitasking impairs the brain’s ability to focus and process information, reducing mental clarity and decision-making abilities.

Over time, chronic multitasking can exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as individuals struggle to cope with the overwhelming demands placed on their cognitive resources. 

“Recent estimates are that you can lose up to 40% of your productivity if you multitask”. – Susan Weinschenk Ph.D. 


Signs of Excessive Multitasking in the Workplace

  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
  • Frequently missing deadlines or making errors in tasks.
  • Exhibiting signs of burnout or exhaustion.
  • Struggling to maintain focus on any single task for an extended period.
  • Having difficulty prioritizing tasks effectively.
  • Showing signs of reduced creativity or innovation.

“The kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time.” – Daniel Levitin. 

Are There Alternatives to Multitasking?

These strategies address the root causes of multitasking and provide practical solutions to enhance employee focus and productivity: 

Timeboxing and Time Blocking

These methods dedicate time for specific tasks, preventing distractions and promoting deep work. When jobs are broken into manageable chunks, employees can concentrate solely on the task at hand and complete it in less time. This technique helps to reduce the temptation to multitask. 

Deep work: Deep work involves immersing oneself in a state of flow where concentration is maximal and productivity is heightened. This state is sometimes referred to as being in the “zone.” 

Scheduled Email Checks

Constantly checking emails can disrupt workflow and lead to multitasking. Therefore, employees should schedule specific times to check and respond to emails. This will help reduce interruptions. 

Limiting Distractions

Minimizing distractions such as email alerts, phone notifications, and interruptions in the workspace creates an environment conducive to focused work.

Eliminating external stimuli allows individuals to concentrate on present tasks and avoid the need for multitasking. 

Mindfulness Practice

Being mindful of one’s actions and thoughts helps individuals recognize when they are tempted to multitask and redirect their focus to the present task.

When individuals practice mindfulness, they can develop better concentration and attention skills, reducing the urge to multitask. 

These techniques promote a systematic approach to task management, allowing individuals to prioritize tasks, maintain focus, and optimize productivity without resorting to multitasking.


“Multitasking makes us more distractible and prone to errors.” – Jennifer E. Davis.


Evidence supports that multitasking at work hampers productivity, lowers work quality, and harms mental well-being.

Strategies like timeboxing, scheduled email checks, limiting distractions, and practicing mindfulness facilitate a more focused and productive work environment.

Thus, organizations can significantly improve productivity and employee well-being by reevaluating traditional task management approaches and consciously avoiding multitasking.

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