In a 2006 Harvard Business Review article, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce wrote that the days of the 40-hour workweek are over and the 60-hour workweek is now commonplace. In their research, the authors found that 62% of high-earning individuals work over 50 hours a week and 35% put in over 60 hours. Is this necessary? Is there no other way to be more productive without putting in more hours? Perhaps there is. There are some well-known facts about productivity and our brain that can help us out. Over the next few blog posts, I will introduce them one by one.
One well-known way to be more productive is to quit multitasking.
While there are some people who can multitask, unfortunately, you are probably not one of them. That is not to sound harsh, but new research is finding that about 2.5% of the population—supertaskers—have a rare ability to attend to two tasks simultaneously. This is excellent for those who are in that category, but beware if you are not and you attempt to multi-task anyway. Your performance is likely to decline significantly, by as much as 30% and you may wind up getting less done than if you had set out to focus on one thing at a time. Pay special attention to this if you consider yourself an avid multitasker; research at Stanford found that people most likely to multitask have the least ability to do so well.
“What most people refer to as multitasking, I refer to as ‘switchtasking.’ Why? Because the truth is we really cannot do two things at the same time – we are only one person with only one brain. Neurologically speaking, it has been proven to be impossible. What we are really doing is switching back and forth between two tasks rapidly, typing here, paying attention there ... Keep this up over a long period of time, and you have deeply engrained habits that cause stress and anxiety and dropped responsibilities and a myriad of productivity & focus problems.” -Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking