Busting the Multitasking Myth

Want to improve productivity? Focus on one task at a time.

Yes, you can email, field a phone call and schedule meetings all at the same time, but if you think you're being highly productive, think again.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Edward Hallowell, director of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health, multitasking is a myth. The truth is that the cerebral cortex can only focus on one thing at a time. Hallowell says that what people really do is quickly shift their attention from one task to another. That rapid-fire transition actually reduces the quality of work on any one task, he says, because you're ignoring it for milliseconds at a time.


The way to be more efficient at work is simple: Focus on the task before you. Here are some tips to find your focus:

  • Declutter your workspace. By keeping your work area neat, you'll have few visual distractions to pull you from the task at hand. When you finish a task, put it away.
  • Reduce interruptions. Don't be afraid to close your office door or post a note stating that you are currently on task and unavailable. Let others know when you'll be available or suggest that they send an email to set up a time to talk.
  • Schedule time for email. Instead of lifting your head every time an email comes in, schedule several blocks of time throughout the day to address them thoughtfully.
Source: McMurry © 2012