The Multitasking Myth and
How it’s Hurting Your Business

10 minute read

We all do it. You’re probably doing it right now.

Doing more than one thing at a time, right?

I imagine a lot of my readers are scanning this article, not really reading it, but scanning it to see if it deserves more than a 5-second glance and at the same time on a conference call or webinar.

Or maybe some are doing three things at once, scanning the article, on a conference call, and switching back and forth between social media.

Or maybe…some are doing even more switching and multitasking.

The challenge is to break the habit and reprogram our impulses to control the need to go from one thing to another quickly or try to do two or more things at the same time.

Multitasking is not humanly possible. Earl K. Miller, MIT Click To Tweet

There are 3 types of behaviors we’re talking about here:

  • Multitasking — doing more than one thing at a time — and I’ll add this — but thinking we are doing all tasks effectively.
  • Context Switching — moving from one thing to another quickly — tasks that are not related in any way.
  • Attention Residue — occurs when we leave tasks unfinished, when we get interrupted, or when we anticipate that once we have a chance to get to the unfinished or pending work we will have to rush to get it done. It’s always in the back of our mind taking up space, energy, and focus.

I was guilty of all of them for so long. Honestly, I thought it was expected, normal even.

Those who teach the ‘hustle and grind’ philosophy of being an entrepreneur celebrate a multitasking lifestyle.

This celebration is seen in the boastful posts about how busy they and how they had to take their client calls while driving down the freeway on their way to another meeting.

You’ve seen those posts, haven’t you? Maybe even posted some yourself. I know I have.

And this is what sidetracked my energy and pushed me to burnout.

Taking on too much and pretending I could just multitask my way out of it.

laptop on desk by window with coffee

What happens when this becomes the norm?

Truth? You begin to do sub-par work and you suck the life right out of yourself.

Then sub-par work turns into missed appointments or constant rescheduling so that you can get caught up.

You begin to program your brain that it’s necessary to work like that (multitasking, context switching, attention residue) and lose the ability to focus for more than a few minutes without the itch to pick up your phone, check your email, make a call, etc.

From research, here are a few other things that happen when you’re multitasking:

  • Your short-term (working) memory goes in the toilet. Here’s a study.
  • You drain your brain’s energy. Here’s a report.
  • You make more mistakes, lose productivity and worse yet, it affects your sleep. Say whaaaa?
  • Not to mention increased anxiety, lack of creativity, inability to complete just about anything,

Multitasking is no Bueno friends!

As a matter of fact, in terms of context switching, every task you add decreases your productivity by a factor of 20% with each added task.

How do you reprogram your life?

I’ll share my steps back to sanity, energy, and inspired work.

  • Stop checking your damn email every 5 minutes. I check my email in the morning and afternoon. I have the luxury of doing this because my team is small and I don’t set up the expectation that I’ll get right back to someone when they email me.I’ve even put a vacation reminder on my email that says: “Hey, thanks for your email. So that I can give my undivided attention to my client projects, I check my email at 9:00 am EST and 3:00 pm EST M-Th. I’ll respond to your email by 10:00 am EST the following day.”
no on red background

What it’s done for me:

I have reclaimed 2 hours of my time each day, not to mention my weekends. That’s about $108k a year worth of time. Probably more because that time is put toward new program development or marketing which brings me even more for those 2 hours of time.

  • Task match your week. Boy, this is a life-saver! I can’t emphasize that enough. I match my similar tasks and perform them in the same time block or day of the week.

Here’s how I task match:

I’ve organized all of my tasks and responsibilities by category and I group those items and perform them on the same day. For example, I schedule all of my coaching calls on Monday and Tuesday.

This allows me to stay in my strategy brain all day without switching to administrative or creative tasks.

Wednesdays are for client-related work projects. Anything that’s ongoing or that has developed from my Monday or Tuesday calls goes on this day.

Thursdays are for team meetings, admin, and the occasional coaching call if the Monday/Tuesday schedule can’t accommodate it and the client has a launch or deadline.

I don’t work Friday-Sunday any more. Well, occasionally, I’ll throw in a couple of hours on Friday but definitely nothing on the weekends.

If it can’t fit in this schedule, it can’t be done. Which leads me to my next tip.

  • Learn to say no. Stop saying yes to everything just because you are in feast or famine mode.

I said yes to everything in the past because I had poorly designed systems and had zero consistency in my revenue. One month I generate $35k the next $15k and it would flip flop like that all the time.

I also said yes to everything because I wanted to be seen as “the one person” who could do it. That’s a terrible business decision.

Saying no is the most positive thing you can do in your business.

Those were the shifts I made in my business and I made huge strides in my personal life as well. In total, I reclaimed 3 days a week. 3 whole days that I can use to replenish, connect with friends, spend time with my husband, restore my creative juices and take care of myself.

Me and Keith in Barcelona ’08 for my 50th birthday

Aligning my business with my life:

I wondered why I was always tired and lacked joy on the weekends…probably because I had gotten in the habit of playing catch up on work projects on Saturdays and Sundays.

I’m not talking about just a few minutes occasionally. I was working 6-8 hours daily on my weekends EVERY weekend.

The mismanagement of time during the week pushed me to have to make up work over the weekend.

This is huge, folks.

The message that I was telling myself and my husband was that my work was more important than my life.

Just writing that made my heart hurt.

My work is a part of my life, not my whole life.

Let that sink in.

Are you saying that, too?

Are you working at all hours of the night, over the weekends, and sacrificing your health, relationships, and spirit all in the name of your business?

Please, dear soul, stop. Stop the insanity of working like you’re working and take a page from my book.

Stop multitasking, context switching, and giving in to attention residue.

Start implementing the 3 most effective strategies that I used and teach my clients to do.

If you can reclaim even 1 day you’re off to a great start.

Remember, your work isn’t your life, your work is part of your life. You deserve a life that isn’t sacrificed for the work you do.

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xoxo Lisa
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