There is a habit that we often indulge in without the slightest idea of the damage it wrecks on our lives and productivity.

We do it every day in our offices, streets and homes: talking on phone or texting while working, driving or walking, checking and sending emails during meetings, and meeting or discussing issues in the office while doing something else and so on. It is called multitasking.

In today’s fast-paced tech world, doing one thing at a time seems like a luxury we cannot afford.

Yet, there is overwhelming evidence based on research that multitasking is counterproductive and productivity’s enemy number one.

According to a study from Kings Psychiatry College in London, “Jumping between products and overusing technology caused a 10-point drop in test subject’s IQs.”

Similar tests done on subjects after smoking marijuana showed only a five-point drop in IQ, meaning multitasking reduces productivity more than does smoking marijuana.

According Dr Glen Wilson, a top British psychologist, unrestricted informania decreases mental sharpness. It severely stresses the brain and impairs short-term memory and concentration leading to many errors and low productivity.

Multitasking is actually a mirage. It does not exist. When you do two or more tasks simultaneously, you ‘‘switchtask’.’

The brain cannot simultaneously process work. It rapidly switches from one activity to another. When you do this the activities take longer to finish, mistakes and stress levels increase.

Most highly effective people, especially entrepreneurs, have one incredible habit that makes all the difference — they focus on a single project or activity and eliminate distractions as much as possible until completion.

This may seem challenging to most managers, business owners and executives with too much on their table and whose positions and responsibilities demand that they be available for consultations most of the time.

However, this is just an excuse. There are several ways to avoid multitasking and increase productivity in this age of technology.

First, create big chunks of time and devote each chunk to one task. Personally, I prefer doing tasks that require concentration such as writing very early in the morning or late in my office when everyone has left.

Secondly, you can isolate yourself from the rest of the world by turning off your phone, internet connection or email alerts for a certain period of time. You can then respond to emails and missed calls later. You may be surprised that nothing really important will miss your attention and action by this simple act.

Thirdly, have tech-free meetings and request your staff and clients to do the same. You don’t have to keep the phone beside you and keep responding: ‘‘I’m in a meeting’’ or ‘‘Sorry I am busy, will call you later’’ every time it rings. This is already multitasking and a distraction. Just put your phone on silent mode and keep it away. If it goes unanswered, the caller will automatically know that you are busy. The above recommendations require good planning and prioritising your tasks.

You can set aside time or days of the week to handle different activities such as meeting staff, holding individual consultations, meeting or calling or visiting your customers, checking and responding to emails and so on.

This saves you the agony of daily juggling or rapidly switching from one function to another. This habit, if developed and fully executed, can reduce your stress levels and mistakes and increase your efficiency and profitability.

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