Multitasking Kills Productivity and That’s Bad for New Business

Photo Credit Daquella Manera

Research shows that the more you multitask, the worse you are at it and that can be bad for ad agency new business.

In some situations multitasking is deadly. I recently read of a well-known plastic surgeon who was killed when he accidentally drove his car over a cliff while sending a Twitter message about his dog. Most of us understand the dangers of multitasking while driving but many don’t realize that multitasking can be killing productivity.

The term “multitasking originated in the computer engineering industry, referring to the ability of a microprocessor to process several task at the simultaneously. Our ability to multitask is not as efficient as we might think.

On the surface multitasking sounds like it would boost productivity but studies show just the opposite happens:

Professor Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a leader in multi-tasking research, says, ‘People can’t do it very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves,’ he says. ‘The brain is very good at deluding itself.’ 

Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one.” 

A study at the University of California found that multitasking impedes the brain’s ability to absorb information

Author of the book Distraction, Damon Young, says, “When we move from our job to an e-mail, it takes about a minute to recover our train of thought and then we get another e-mail, or an SMS, so our concentration is fractured. The result? We’re not really multi-tasking. We’re switching between tasks in an unfocused or clumsy way.”

Studies here in the US have shown that students who do homework while watching television get consistently lower grades.

“There is a cost to the way that our society is changing. Humans are not built to work this way, we’re really built to focus.” Russell Poldrack,UCLA psychology professor

Persons charged with business development for most small to mid-size ad agencies often wear multiple hats. That increases the likelihood that they do a lot of multi-tasking and are less efficient than they could be.

We are not made for multitasking and it actually hinders our productivity:

  • The time it takes to complete jobs increases significantly. People actually lose time rather than gain it. The brain has to restart and refocus. Switching attention is from one task to another, work may be faster but studies show that productivity is less.
  • Multi-taskers are prone to errors.
  • Multi-taskers are more easily distracted. The more they multitask the worse they are at it and the less they can focus on one thing.
  • Multitasking hurts relationships. Even though it isn’t intended, it makes clients, coworkers, friends and most importantly family feel unimportant.
  • Multitasking comes at a high price. It greatly increases stress,  even rage in adults and learning problems for children. You need to ask yourself, ‘is this the way I want to feel? Is this the way I really want to live my life?”

If you want to be productive it’s best not to multi-task at all. There is no downside to it. Here are 10 tips to overcoming multitasking:

  1. Embrace single tasking. Acknowledge the problem, “Hi, my name is Michael and I’m a multi-tasker.” 
  2. Manage your time better, do one thing at a time if at all possible.Schedule time to switch your attention from one task to another.
  3. Look for ways to create silence. I turn off any distractions and even use a set of noise canceling headphones to help me get into a focused state of mind.
  4. Turn off the cell phone and disable email alerts. Have set time to check voice mail and your inbox.
  5. Distractions on the internet are abundant. To bring strategy and focus to your online reading, use an RSS Reader such as Google Reader.
  6. Force yourself to disconnect. Take a break from social media and the internet.
  7. Create a To Do List for the day. Plan your day in blocks. Set  just a few primary objectives that you want to complete by end of day.
  8. Begin in the mornings to complete your most important tasks.
  9. Amazing at how deadlines can keep things moving.  Give yourself less time helps hyper-focus your attention on the project at thand.
  10. Schedule in some periodic breaks during the day, such as going for a brief walk.
About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Yes i agree with that content…Its very correct


  2. Michael,

    I couldn’t agree more. As the head of digital for an agency, as much as my world revolves around digital, I have to find time to turn it off so I can get my work done! I think that sometimes people are surprised when I say I’m not on a ton of social networks, or using a million apps, or reading emails all the time. It just can’t be done. As much as technology has enhanced our lives, it can also detract from them as well.

    Sheryl Victor Levy

  3. Thanks for sharing Sheryl. It is a daily battle to avoid the temptation to multi-task. I’m far more efficient if I set the agenda for my day and block out time to focus.

  4. Nancy Bistritz says:

    Love this article. I wrote about this recently in a LinkedIn forum and then our company blog. Multitasking isn’t always smart – or effective.

  5. Thanks Nancy. Please feel free to include the link to your post in the comment section. I would enjoy reading as well as others.

  6. Awesome post. Multitasking is counterproductive! You may want to check out this multitasking exercise:

  7. Thanks Faye. I enjoyed reviewing Dave Crenshaw’s site and his info on multitasking.

  8. Mark Rouse says:

    The first half of this article was great. But then my phone rang. And someone popped into my office. And I needed coffee. What were you saying again?

  9. Funny Mark. It is a daily battle for me. To many shiny objects online to take me off focus.

  10. I like this. But I’d better get back to doing was I was doing before I interrupted myself by scanning Twitter and finding this interesting-looking article!

  11. Michael Gass says:

    Funny Neil. Thanks!


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