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The Inefficiency of Multitasking: Why Your Smartphone Is a 'Weapon of Mass Distraction'

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Scott Will, co-author of Being Agile: Eleven Breakthrough Techniques to Keep You from "Waterfalling Backward", will convince you that multitasking simply wastes time and energy. Learn how to give up multitasking - and get more done.
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Could you sit down with a book you’ve really been wanting to read, and read it for two straight hours? I’m speculating that your answer would be, “Yes.” However, if I stipulated that you had to turn off your smartphone for the entire two hours, how would that rule affect your answer?

Could you concentrate on nothing but the book—a book you’ve been wanting to read—for two straight hours? Or would you have to keep your smartphone nearby, to look at every text message, every email message, every social media posting by your friends, and every newsfeed you’ve subscribed to, at the moment it arrives? And what if the phone actually rings?

With this stipulation in place, would you even want to sit and read for two hours, knowing that you couldn’t keep up with all those things? Your answer provides a window into how much you’ve been influenced by—and likely distracted by—today’s technology. Perhaps now the title of this article is beginning to resonate with you.

How Multitasking Wastes Time

Try this: The next time you go into a restaurant, casually look around at the other tables. I have little doubt that you’ll see at least one table with a group of people who aren’t talking to each other. Instead, everyone has his or her eyes glued to a smartphone. This scenario is becoming the new norm. People can’t seem to put down these devices.

Let’s explore this issue a little bit further. At the end of a typical long workday, do you feel mentally exhausted, without really having accomplished very much? If so, look back on the day and try to discern where your time went. Many people spend their time bouncing from one thing to another—responding to instant messages, phone calls, email messages, text messages, and so on, with little time spent actually accomplishing work. They lack the discipline required to shut off such outside distractions. To make matters worse, constantly bouncing between activities (commonly referred to as “multitasking” or “task switching”) hurts productivity.

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