Three Reasons Why You’re a Terrible Multitasker

I’m about to shoot holes in something you do everyday — a common habit that may be doing you more harm than good.


You may not want to admit it, but you are a bad multitasker. For reasons you may not see, your work is suffering because of it.

And we’re not talking about walking and chewing gum here, I mean the various tasks and routines you juggle in your busy day, such as:

  • Working while monitoring Outlook or social media accounts
  • Writing while talking on the phone
  • Reading and listening during a meeting.

Here are three reasons why multitasking is bad for you, and what you should do about it:

1) You’re doing two (or more) things poorly

I once had a boss who always said multitasking is “doing many things poorly.” It’s true when you consider how quality suffers when your attention is divided. Have you ever spoken to someone who starts reading a text mid-sentence? The conversation suddenly shifts into a repetitive, nonsensical banter. It’s a painful experience to be part of.

Also, it wastes time by slowing down even the most routine tasks. When you have two things going on at once, you’re not doing anyone any favors — especially your business.

Now, add-in the fact that multitasking can add stress and often be a dangerous activity, you have reason enough to not do it.

Here’s another:

2) Your brain isn’t 100% there

Multitasking hinders your brain’s ability to learn. Studies have proven that it involves an extremely limited part of your working memory. That means when you do more than one thing at a time, you’re not comprehending, processing, or doing your best.

You think you’re an efficient multitasker. You might want to think again.

Now, consider this:

3) Multitasking doesn’t really exist

It remains a myth that you can effectively do two things at once. In fact, this study argues that multitaking is not even possible. What your brain is really doing is switching very quickly from one task to another. Back and forth, back and forth. It’s a series of constant interruptions to your focus. Why would you ever agree to do that?

Try this instead:

What to do instead

Find focus. It’s a key reason you should actively use a planner. You truly will perform best when you have organized the many activities that simultaneously occur in your life.

Try these steps for successfully getting things done through focused attention:

  • Stop trying to be a hero: You can’t do everything at once. Make that phone call or text message later, have conversations when you can devote your complete attention, and work one project at a time.
  • Set up your priorities: Make a daily to-do list that puts your work in order of importance, and follow this list like a roadmap.
  • Get it out of your head: Don’t do that urgent or random task that pops into your head — write it down in your planner so you’ll remember to do it later.
  • Plan in blocks: Create alternating segments of task time. For example: need to do laundry and clean the kitchen? Create repeating 20 minute segments of time to do both.
  • Shut out distractions: Eliminate things that sway your attention, such as Outlook, your web browser, and your text message alert.

What are your thoughts on multitasking? Have you found a successful formula for getting two things done in your day? Please share your success with us by commenting.

[photo by j to the jeremy]

Day-Timer Spokesperson Jeff Doubek can be reached at

4 thoughts on “Three Reasons Why You’re a Terrible Multitasker

  1. I won”t not agree that multitasking is bad(women do it all time but at the end of the day are tired and often frustrated!) but experience with using e.g. To do list and ticking it when done feels good. Because-no stress, a little extra time to get more out of the day,definately accomplish tasks and movement toward your goals rather than distractions.last but not the least a better quality of time usage thus a happier way of living!

    1. Azmina, thanks for the comment. You are so right that multitasking can typically leave you quite frustrated. It can get out of control very quickly when you lose focus on one specific task.

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