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The Multitasking Myth About Office Productivity.


Research shows that it takes 25 minutes to regain your concentration and focus on a task after an interruption.

Remember the Karate Kid? Mr. Miyagi tells Daniel, “Focus, Daniel-San!” and “Look eye. Always look eye.”

Who knew that he was also delivering great business productivity advice!

As busy as you are, and you are, it’s important to focus.

For some, there’s a badge of honor associated with multitasking. “I can do it all,” we like to say. And the ability to juggle multiple tasks – and get them done – is a commendable skill.


You still need to focus. Trying to accomplish multiple things at once is really making us all less effective. And we are distracted. I came across this infographic recently – smartphone users check their phones 150 times a day. If you’re constantly checking your phone at work, you’re distracting yourself and by removing your attention from the task at hand to check a text, a Facebook or LinkedIn status alert, or to just make a quick status update is making you less effective.

Research shows that it takes 25 minutes to regain your concentration and focus on a task after an interruption. Office workers are also interrupted every 11 minutes on average. This math is not good for your ability to get things done.

I know that I’ve poked fun at teenagers with their constant phone-fidgeting and checking whatever the cool app today is and that they just can’t pay attention. When we engage in multitasking, we’re doing the same thing only we can put a little lipstick on it because we’re at work and “need to get a lot done.” Well, you know what they say about lipstick and pigs.

Divide your attention among multiple tasks at the same time and you’re essentially just an older teenager.

I’m not saying that you have to stop getting multiple things done throughout the day. What I am saying is focus on them one at a time instead of attempting to toggle between multiple things at once. You’ll do them all better.

Here are some tips for focusing and shutting out distractions to achieve greater office productivity:

  1. Alerts. Turn off your email and social network alerts on your computer. Unless you are awaiting the arrival of a truly critical email, alert popups are a distraction – even if you don’t stop what you’re working on to open up the email immediately just seeing the subject line of an email on the screen for a moment can break your concentration on the task you were working on
  2. Email. Set time aside to open, read, and respond to email two to four times each day. Email creates an illusion that you must respond immediately. Just because you can doesn’t mean you always need to. If someone REALLY needs an immediate answer, then they’ll call – or track you down in the office.
  3. Take a break. Attention and brainpower is a finite thing. Taking a break now and then will keep you alert and attentive to detail longer than grinding it out at your desk hour after hour (after hour).
  4. Your phone. Turn the ringer, or at least the text, alert sounds off. I don’t know about you, but just about every text I receive can wait. Don’t succumb to the false sense of urgency technology carries with it.
  5. The Internet.  Close windows as you finish with them. If you want to come back to an article – bookmark it, or use a tool like to create a list of articles
    on a similar topic you’d like to read. Or Pinterest (good for quickly creating a resource board on ANY topic – simply add the widget to your browser – and fantastic for recipes too).
  6. Social Accounts.  We all need a break now and then, but time yourself for check-ins, just like you would the Internet.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you stay focused during the day? Share them in the comments below. We’ll have another productivity post for you next month. Stay tuned!

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Topics: Productivity Tips and Tools