Let’s be really clear about this, no one is an effective multitasker.

In the truest sense of the word, as soon as we do more than one task that requires our specific attention (i.e. other than autonomic processes like breathing and regulating our temperature) our performance falls off the edge of a cliff.

More typically, when we talk about multitasking, we mean quickly switching between different tasks.  We have to do this some of the time just to get things done, and for sure, some people can do it better than others.  But the reality is that no-one multitask as well as they can unitask (if that’s a word.)


Sex Equality!

And whilst we’re at it, the research published recently in the Harvard Business Review* shows that there is no difference between the ability of men and women to multitask.

This has implications for the way we work and the way we plan our work schedule. When you have to multi-task, try and do so with low level jobs rather than something which requires your full attention.  Conversely, when you have something that does require your full attention, make sure you can disconnect yourself from interruptions from other people and from email and social media.



Like to listen to music while you work sometimes?  This can be a good thing if you choose the right music.  Our ears are always open, so we will lose attention if we are distracted by conversations around us or street noise outside the window.  Music can drown these out and provide a calm, conducive environment for us to work, but only if the music itself isn’t too distracting.  Lyrics you sing along to for example will reduce your concentration.  Ever turned the radio off when reversing in to a tight spot? That’s because when we need to really focus, our brain can’t function properly with anything competing for our attention – particularly noise.

Like to work while you’re watching TV?  Don’t! It won’t work.  You won’t enjoy the programme and you’ll work at a ridiculously ineffective pace.



When switching from one thing to another, be aware of how easy or hard that can be. The hormones and neuro-chemicals generated in an emotional meeting, for example, don’t instantly dissipate just because you’re on to a new task.  Moods can stay with you days on some level, and certainly for a good 20 minutes in a really significant, decision-altering way.  Bear in mind what order you do things in and if possible plan a break or at least a less involved task after meetings that you know will be particularly heavy.


Suffer from “mood overlap” between different meetings?  Click on this link to manage your moods as effectively as possible

Rushing on to the next task too quickly?  Click here for how to take a more considered approach


*  HBR Sept 18.  Julien Laloyaux, Frank Larol, Marco Hirnstein