The idea that multi-tasking makes us more productive is a lie! “But, I’m good at multi-tasking!” We all think we are. But 97% of us are wrong. 

When we jump back and forth from a project, to emails, to quick conversations with co-workers, we are multi-tasking our way to mediocrity.

Study after study have now proven that multi-tasking makes us less productive not more productive. If you read Harvard Business Review, Forbes, The New Yorker, Psychology Today…all of these publications point to one thing:

If you want to be more productive, do less multi-tasking.

The Survey Says…

Here is just a quick snapshot of some of the data:

  • 97% of people get worse at completing individual tasks when they do them simultaneously versus back to back.
  • There is a 40% loss in productivity when people multi-task.
  • We lose 6 productive hours a day due to switching back and forth between tasks.
  • It takes 20 min to get back to same level of productivity after we pause to answer an email.

Considering all the distractions we encounter everyday, it’s amazing we get anything done whatsoever!

Control What You Can Control

In today’s world of smart phones, multiple computer screens, and open office floor plans there are some distractions we can control and some things we can’t.

Can’t Control

  • Customer interruptions.
  • Conference calls, video meetings, live meetings, etc.
  • The boss’s interruptions based on his/her needs and whims.
  • Open floor plans that create noise and visual distractions.

Can Control

Prioritizing your tasks.

  • If everthing is a priority, then nothing is. What is the most important thing to accomplish today?  What is the most critical project I must advance?

Where you spend your time.

  • If you know the answer to the questions above, then you must allocate your time accordingly. This is about self-discipline now that you know what your priorities are.

Email, text, and phone calls.

  • These are rarely as important as your current priority. Don’t be like Pavlov’s dog each time the phone buzzes or a new email pops up. Shut them down while you work on your priorities.

How you schedule your time.

  • Block out chunks of time each day for your priorities. 95% of emails can wait an hour so you can focus on your priorities. Close the door. Shut off the phone. Close email. FOCUS.

The Bottom Line:

The majority of us think multi-tasking helps us get more done. It doesn’t – unless your in the special 3% that surprised the scientists. The majority can’t be in the top 3%. It’s mathematically impossible.

It’s like going to Alcoholics Anonymous – the first step is admitting you have a problem. 

Implementing every suggestion from me or those publications is not necessary. Getting control of just a few things will improve your productivity.  

What if you just got 50% better?

That would mean a 20% increase in your productivity and 3 fewer hours of wasted time each day. Just because you admitted to what the scientists have already proven about you!


When do you do most of your multi-tasking?