Sue Maitland - Life Transitions Coach


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The Downside of Multitasking – It’s a habit you may want to break

We pride ourselves on using technology to stay on of top of everything that’s going on in the world and in our own personal and professional lives and as a result we often spend a lot of time multi-tasking.

It’s so easy to lose focus and get distracted by the constant call of social media posts, emails, text messages, FB and LinkedIn messages, phone calls and more. We are frequently bombarded by notices and updates to feeds we’ve subscribed to and things others want us to pay attention to and it’s easy to get sucked into being online and responding immediately to new requests and invitations from others all the time.

Women have for years prided themselves on being able to multi-task and sometimes derided men who only do one thing at a time and yet by multi-tasking we may have been doing ourselves a serious disservice.

Multi-Tasking Doesn’t Make You More Efficient

Studies have shown that our brains can’t actually focus on more than one task at a time, so each time you switch from a task or activity to respond to or read an email, a tweet or a post, you are not doing two things at once, you are switching from one task to another and each time you do this, it takes time for the brain to get back up to speed again with what you were doing before the distraction. It’s a very inefficient way to work.

The Downside of Multi-Tasking

  • You’re less efficient with your time
  • You add to your stress levels by forcing your brain to constantly switch back and forth
  • You may miss important points in a meeting because you’re checking your messages or thinking about other things you need to do
  • You send a negative message to other people in a meeting or event that what’s going on in your life is so much more important than what they have to say
  • You take longer to complete a task and miss out on the satisfaction of successfully and efficiently completing a task before moving on to the next
  • You don’t honour your priorities – other people’s priorities are often taking precedence
  • You’re setting expectations that you’re always available and will respond to others immediately
  • You may experience feelings of overwhelm by having so many tasks underway at once
  • You may fail to deliver top quality work that comes from giving your undivided attention to the task in hand

Simple Steps to break your multi-tasking habit

  1. 1. Stop wearing the “I’m a great multi-tasker” label as a badge of honour
  2. 2. Create a new mantra for yourself “I am calm and focused on my priorities
  3. 3. Create some new healthy habits

Healthy New Habits:

  • Turn off distracting notifications
  • Only check your devices a maximum of 3 times per day. Book time in your calendar to do this and tackle the easy and quick responses right away if time permits.
  • Create 2 folders #1PRIORITY (must be responded to within 24 hrs) and #2PRIORITY (can be responded to later) and move all emails that you’ve read and which still require action to one of these these folders.
  • Deal with your #1PRIORITY folder messages daily and set aside time to do this.
  • Review #2PRIORITY folder daily and move emails to #1PRIORITY folder as appropriate
  • Let people know you’ll only be checking messages a few times and day and tell them the best way to reach you if something really urgent comes up (cellphone, text message…)
  • Make a Daily Task List and give each task a score between 1 and 10. Include “Respond to #1PRIORITY Folder” and give it a score of 10. The 10’s are to be completed today. If you have too many 10’s, change some 10’s to a 9. Don’t stress yourself by putting too many 10’s on your list. Put a BIG checkmark next to each 10 as you complete it and take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment. This will help keep you motivated and focused on what you want to achieve and help you ignore the distractions.
  • Determine what time of day is your best time to tackle your more challenging tasks and block off time in your calendar, turn your phone/s off and work on these tasks during that window with no distractions.
  • Unplug and give yourself some down time. Turn your devices off in meetings, at social events, after regular work hours and ideally, as Arianna Huffington suggests, “gently escort your electronic devices from the bedroom” before bedtime. Consider getting a traditional alarm clock to wake you up if you currently rely on your phone.


Remember to be kind to yourself and don’t give up just because you fall back into old multi-tasking patterns once on a while. It takes 21 days to create a new habit – remind yourself of all the reasons why you’re making this change. Repeat your mantra “I am calm and focused on my priorities” and in time you’ll succeed and be rewarded with a sense of being in control of your life.

If you need help clarifying your priorities, consider investing in lifetime access to Sue’s on-demand workshop “What’s Important to Me NOW?. Here’s a link with more details Link to On-Demand Workshop

Sue Maitland PCC is a speaker and professional life and career coach. She speaks and runs workshop on the topic of creating work-life balance and the importance of networking. Her coaching clients are often professionals who are feeling stuck or overwhelmed in their life or career. Sue creates a safe and confidential space for them to explore new and inspiring possibilities for their future.