March 31st, 2022
Productivity and multitasking don’t mix
With a work schedule, an energy management strategy and a task-tracking system in place, the last challenge we have to face is that of multitasking.
According to a 1999 study, we have a tendency to view multitasking as effective, even when it isn’t.
However, researcher Zhen Wang was able to show that on average, multitaskers are actually less likely to be productive, yet they feel more emotionally satisfied with their work—creating an illusion of productivity.
Worse yet, Stanford researcher Clifford Nass examined the work patterns of multitaskers and analyzed their ability to:
He found that they were terrible at all three. According to Nass:
We were absolutely shocked. We all lost our bets. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.
When working on the computer, the best thing you can do is turn on Airplane Mode; no need for temptation when you can’t even access the web. If you’re unable, help yourself with tools like and StayFocusd to block distracting sites.
The next best strategy is to create an evening planning ritual where you select a few priority tasks to accomplish the next day.
The reason this method works far better than planning your daily tasks in the morning is because research from the Kellogg School has shown that we miscalculate the amount of focus we’ll be able to maintain in the future. We strongly believe that we’ll be able to quickly plan our day the next morning, but when tomorrow rolls we stumble off track.
You can create an evening planning ritual with a simple pen & paper or use an online tool like TeuxDeux each night. List only priority tasks (the “big 5”) for the day.
Instead of listing, “Work on research project,” as a daily goal, try something like, “Finish introduction,” or, “Find additional sources,” as a task you can actually complete.
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