Perils of Multitasking

Productivity, multitasking and notification

It is now well established that multitasking is impacting productivity significantly. If you do a quick Google search with the terms “multitasking and productivity”, you will get over 1.4 million hits but the first few are quite interesting. The average reduction in productivity due to multitasking is estimated to be about 40%. Another interesting study related to impact on organization, across 45 different organizations, determined that the impact of reducing multitasking ranges from 13% to 150% increase in productivity.

In fact, what ever you do, including simple daily life tasks, multitasking simply means that each things you are doing simultaneously is done at less than full capacity, full attention.

Capture d’écran 2015-04-06 à 18.15.35

The figure above is part of  much larger, very nice and informative infographic that can be found here

However, the trend in technology and gadgets seem to be geared to provide even more information at any one time; I call this the tyranny of the notification options. Notification “centres” on smartphone, notifications of all sort on your desktop for e-mails, Facebook, twitter and may more. These notifications can be visual with or without an audible sounds. On your smartphones you can even add vibrations or activate the LED flash light. A new phenomena is now seen in peoples feeling the device vibration even when their devices are not on them, like a missing limb…

Simplify your notification options and gain productivity

You should reserve notification only for the truly important stuff, which by definition should be no more than a few per day: a reminder for a meeting that you need to go to, a special event or anniversary, that key e-mail from a specific person (unless your job is to reply to e-mails) and so on.

Everything else should be disable by default: no notification, none, zip, nada…

For example, my e-mail software allow me to define VIPs and specific notification related to these VIPs. That list is dynamic and depends on what I am waiting for at any given moment. If that e-mail arrives, I will get a notification. Similar options exist for text messages or phone calls.

The idea is “to not get disturb” every time a new e-mail or any other new information get to you in the background. The best way to deal with them is to set aside one or a few time slots everyday so you can focus on them at that time and deals with your other projects in-between.

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