Why multitasking sucks?

by Jelena

So if doing the most important thing is the most important thing, why would you try to do anything else at the same time?

GARRY KELLER

I live a very hectic life and have different roles to take on during the day. I run a charity foundation with its many projects and subsidiaries and I’m also managing our private family business. I have two kids, two dogs, and one husband. People who don’t know me usually think I am a master of multitasking. The truth is, I actually suck at it.

When I became a mother, I felt like my “To Do” list kept growing and the available time kept shrinking. I came to the conclusion that in this new stage of my life, I’ll have to learn to multitask because there is no other way to go.

I tried to do that for 2 years and it made me miserable. I wasn’t achieving the results I was hoping, my stress levels were through the roof, and time to complete the task was longer than usual. Not to mention that coming back home to family felt like a job, not a pleasure and a place where I refuel.

I live with one of the greatest champions in the world of sport and I can certainly see – when you want to be good at something, you need: focus, focus, focus.

You cannot do several things at the same time and achieve big results. You may think you are progressing when you are ticking those items off the list, but the truth is, you are not really able to differentiate what’s important and what’s not important because you are overwhelmed.

When you are doing too many things at the same time, the progress is microscopic and the feeling of disappointment is macroscopic.

In situations when I feel I am lacking answers and solutions to the ongoing problems (that I always prefer calling challenges), I always resort to the books. For this kind of “challenge”, I’ve found a great book called “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

The book is all about restructuring your life, setting up priorities and long-term goals to achieve success. You have to focus on what you do well, go deep and understand what are the habits of successful people and what it takes to succeed.

You need to find your ONE thing and drive it all the way to success.

Here are the ten quotes that were taken out from the book that really rang true for me:

  1. “Multitasking leads to mistakes, poor choices, and stress. It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”
  2. You can actually give focus to two things, but that is what it’s called “divided attention”. Take on two things and your attention gets divided. Take on a third and something gets dropped.
  3. You can do two things at once but you cannot focus effectively on two things at once. Even an idle phone conversation when driving takes a 40% bite out of your focus and, surprisingly, can have the same effect as being drunk. (Driven to distraction by Matt Richtel)
  4. Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions. And so, chronic multitaskers develop a distorted sense of how long it takes to do things. They almost always believe tasks take longer to complete than is actually required. Researchers estimate we lose 28% of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.
  5. Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time. – Steve Uzzell
  6. Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
  7. To do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction.
  8. You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.
  9. Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
  10. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time.

All of this shows that we shouldn’t multitask if we are striving to achieve success at what we do. But what if you have to?

I do have to be a mom, wife, businesswoman, friend, sister… All of these roles require my attention and yet I cannot be all of it at the same time.

An overworked and overtired woman covered with Post-it reminders for all sorts of tasks and reminders from mother to meeting rolls her eyes in frustration. She’s seriously over committed.

Focus on One thing. Go small.

In this book, authors are saying you need to focus and chose your one thing at the time. The more you take, the less well you’ll do. Choose your big goal and start clearing up distractions.

Going small is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.

GARRY KELLER AND JAY PAPASAN

You cannot be good at everything at once.

You have to suck at something while you are focusing on being good at the thing you chose to be the priority. As long as you know your priorities, and have them always in front of you, you’ll be able to ignore the noise around you.

A few years ago, when we had the privilege to have dinner with Elon Musk while in New York, I asked him about his time and energy management as I was fascinated how he is succeeding to lead 3 companies (and take care of 5 children). He answered that he takes 2 days for Space X, 2 days for Tesla and 2 days for SolarCity. I found that his strategy really works when I applied it to my business. I have divided up my chores, decided to focus on one at the time and luckily, regained balance and clarity at work.

Now, I am learning to prioritize things better and to clear up the clutter. I have started dedicating specific time in the day for the mail and I definitely do not respond to it as it arrives. Another very valuable skill that I am still learning is how to delegate tasks and responsibilities efficiently. Some tasks that I enjoy doing I keep for myself, and others I try to delegate to people with more skills, time and passion for them.

But even though this may all sound rosy, know that I am still very much a work in progress and despite me trying to be better at this, many things still keep popping up and messing up with my simple approach. That’s why I always need to remind myself that there is nothing wrong in striving for perfection in what you do, but that doesn’t mean we will ever reach it. Not in this lifetime. But as long as I keep focusing on what I love doing, I believe I am on a good path.


Are you a multitasker? Did I convince you to give it up? Let’s talk about your little secrets to successful life. Share your comments below.

 

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44 comments

Viktor Udzenija December 21, 2018 - 10:15 am

Definitely one of the challenges of any entrepreneur

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Jelena December 21, 2018 - 12:10 pm

Trust me I know. And the (great) thing is, the world always makes you believe you HAVE to multitask. If we are not conscious of what we are doing, we end up multitasking again… So, it is a constant battle of giants 🙂

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Viktor Udzenija December 21, 2018 - 10:16 am

Excited to read more!!!

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Jelena December 21, 2018 - 12:11 pm

Love the challenge! 🙂

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Melisa December 21, 2018 - 11:14 am

This is my number one problem. As you wrote everyone was thinking I am such a good multitasker and managing everything. The truth is I wasn’t (I am not) managing the most important thing – my health and myself. I am trying to be perfect at my job and also maintane same perfection at home: great wife, mom who absolutely manages everything. Still didn’t find solution that perfectly works for me, but I am so happy to read your story and to find out I am not all alone. Thank you for inspiring story. Melisa

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:35 pm

As much as it is frustrating, it is also divine. You have consciousness now and now you just need to find the right key to open the door 🙂 I am also a perfectionist, and the more I learn the more I understand that I cannot be perfect. Through the spiritual journey, I learned that we are all divine just the way we are and striving to be better is the lifelong journey and not a destination. Much love to you Melisa! Looking forward to chatting with you more 🙂

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Miloon December 21, 2018 - 11:21 am

Great text, very useful to all people for their daily tasks in order to improve time-management issues

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:36 pm

Thank you!

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Marija December 21, 2018 - 1:47 pm

Dobar izbor teme! Svidja mi se nacin na koji si sagledala sve okolnosti, prihvatila realnost i nasla neki svoj modus kako da “plivas”. Napisala svi sve ono sto nam se svima vrzma po glavi. Moje iskrustvo je takvo da u toj frci sa obavezama, vremenom, ciljevima, dragoceno je imati uz sebe nekog ko ti moze biti dobar uzor, od koga mozes videti na koji nacin svemu treba pristupiti i ko ima zelju da te dobronamerno posavetuje. Veliki pozdrav iz Svilajnca! 🙂

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Hvala Marija, veliki pozdrav i tebi!

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TINA December 21, 2018 - 2:50 pm

I used to think that multitasking is ONE of my talents, but now I think that because of constant multitasking I did not discover my true talents. Yet!

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:40 pm

Exactly! Just yet 🙂 Now you’ll see how many more meaningful things you can do with the time you have 🙂 And it is a never-ending journey…. the worlds keeps sucking us back into the multitasking mode. Fight back, Tina!

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Dragana December 21, 2018 - 3:14 pm

Just ordered book you suggested on Amazon – Hope it helps. Hate multitasking, makes me stressed and drained. Full time job, two kids, activities…grocery shopping ughh…
But taking some quiet time for myself always helps…..Thank you for a great blog. Looking forward to more reading….
Awesome.

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:41 pm

OMG please come back on this page to share your thoughts when you read it. It is such a powerful life-changing book, you’ll love it!

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Liza December 21, 2018 - 4:52 pm

Thanks for the advice! I have always thaught multitasking is good and now I see how wrong I was.

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:42 pm

Same here 🙂

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Di December 21, 2018 - 4:58 pm

And being a mom, have one dog, and want to work thinks you like. But when, a n d how, without help??
I’m still multitasking! I hope I’ll learn how to stop doing it.
Regards Jelena, kisses from Belgrade

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:45 pm

Lol, we always have help!!! Just ask for it. I always pray and ask for help and I always get it. Maybe not in the way I thought I needed… but then at the end – life knows better what we need 🙂 Trust me: 2 kids, 2 dogs, and husband more or less always away, life can be adventurous. When I am alone like that I just ditch everything and focus on essentials. Multitasking is not my specialty. Saying No to things/people is my number one skill 🙂

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Di December 28, 2018 - 5:34 pm

Exactly…i need to ask, just to ask!!
Xxxooxx

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Srikanth A V December 21, 2018 - 5:38 pm

Read this book after seeing your Tweet about it. Amazing book. Really a life changing one.

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jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:46 pm

Share your favorite quotes with us, please! My book is all in highlights 🙂

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Srikanth December 23, 2018 - 8:55 am

Ok. I will share it here after compiling.

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Srikanth December 24, 2018 - 3:23 pm

-Not everything matters equally and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most.
-Time waits for no one. Push something to an extreme and postponement can become permanent.
-Since there is always another level to learn,mastery actually means you are the master of what you know and an apprentice of what you don’t.
– On your way to living a life worth living, doing your best to succeed at what matters most to you not only rewards you with success and happiness but with something even more precious. No regrets.
-When you know what matters most, everything makes sense. When you don’t know what matters most, antlything makes sense. The best lives aren’t led this way.

These are my favourite quotes.

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jelena December 27, 2018 - 6:21 pm

So powerful!!! LOVE IT!!! Thank you for sharing! This is GOLD.

Ajinkya K December 21, 2018 - 6:48 pm

The Musk example made it clear to me, as I could relate to it better 🙂 I am not blessed enough to be with a World Champion hahaha :p
Power to you and Nole!!! Keep rocking

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jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:47 pm

Glad you found something to relate to 🙂

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Jelena December 21, 2018 - 7:24 pm

Dear Jelena this very helpful. I am 25, have two jobs (one of them my own business). It’s very challenging but i love it. I am always looking for better time management. I failed some many times in multitasking. Definitely going to read this book. 🤗 Thank you for sharing this healthy story 😊

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jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:48 pm

Good luck on your life adventures! It’s amazing to hear you are 25 and have your own business :))) Well done!!! Let us know how you like the book please

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Vanja December 21, 2018 - 7:35 pm

You are right. But, it seems that we do not have many choices in practice. Some things you can change, but not all. Technology, mobile phones, e-mails etc make you available at any time. And if you are working in an international company you don’t have enough space to make big changes. You have deadlines for different tasks in the same time. I believe that Elon Musk is happy, but probably he has the best managers who have to work very hard. It will be interesting to ask them about stress and multitasking or the middle management workers. Regards

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:54 pm

Dear Vanja,
It is so hard and so many times it does feel like we have no choice… I’ve been there, too. There is always a way, but you need to distance yourself from the pressure of everyday life to see one. It helped me at least. Good luck!
Jelena

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Ana December 22, 2018 - 12:42 am

“I do have to be a mom, wife, businesswoman, friend, sister… All of these roles require my attention and yet I cannot be all of it at the same time.” – You know what I’m thinking when I’m reading this? It’s kind of like playing a role in a theatre. It’s impossible to play more than one role at the same time but of course you can play more than one during the whole piece.

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Jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:54 pm

Brilliant!! Love it!!! Thank you Ana!

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Tihana Nikolic December 22, 2018 - 2:28 am

Thank you Jelena for this great read and wonderful to see your new website, you are such an inspiration! As a working mum of two little ones embarking on a PhD journey, I often find myself multitasking but my peace, clarity and personal satisfaction indeed come when prioritizing properly. Something worth working on for sure 🙂

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jelena December 22, 2018 - 2:55 pm

Well done Tihana!!! Seems like you are on a great journey! What is your research going to be about?

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Andrew Rosenburgh December 22, 2018 - 2:59 pm

Nice article. I have found that a key to success in business (which allows be to spend time with my family – my priority) is to hire great people and delegate. When you do that, your team makes you look great and you are empowered and not threatened.

Moreover, when people see my priority is my family, they want to join my team. So I get the best people.

Of course as I write this, my 4 day old is on my lap! So I agree with many points, including multitasking is not productive. But I guess I will still try.

Love the site

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jelena December 27, 2018 - 6:28 pm

Thank you for sharing Andrew, everything you said resonates with me 100% 🙂

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Dragana Rašić Vuković December 23, 2018 - 12:47 am

Dear Jelena,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I mentioned everyday time management as a topic on your instagram profile, and I’ve just found some answers. Feel like I know you, cause, as you say, I’m also a mothe of a 3-year-old boy and a 7-month-old girl, a wife, and I’ve got a job, and it sometimes seems impossible to do properly all the tasks you have to do during the day. Not to mention that very often I lose myself completely and have no idea where I’m heading anymore. Glad to hear about the book. Must read it. Thank you once again for sharing your knowledge. Kisses to you and Nole, and special kisses to your pačići Stefan and Tara! Dragana

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jelena December 27, 2018 - 6:36 pm

Dear Dragana,
Seems like we have similar journeys with kids and work 🙂 That book is a life changer! Since being a mom of 2 is a huge multitasking role, I suggest you also try to read the book “The Awaken Family” by Shefali Tsabari. You will appreciate it for sure!
Much love from all of us,
Jelena

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Tihana Nikolic December 24, 2018 - 12:39 am

Hvala Jelena!! Love your work in early childhood education. My research will be about teaching and learning across cultures and developing cultural competency skills among Australian academics. I enjoy learning about other cultures and believe it is important to look at cultural differences as values not issues to overcome in education. My plan is to share this research journey and build my ‘Intercultural Corner’ website as my knowledge about culturally responsive pedagogy grows. It would be great to hear your insights as someone who studied and traveled around the world, so please free to visit my website next year or drop by to say hello if ever on the Gold Coast 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful festive season with your beautiful family and a healthy, happy and prosperous New 2019!

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jelena December 27, 2018 - 6:39 pm

That sounds fantastic! Think of the Novak Djokovic Foundation when you complete or progress with your work, please. We appreciate research a lot! We will keep in touch for sure 🙂

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Padma Rajan December 26, 2018 - 4:00 pm

Loved this post! Jelena, The depth and wisdom in your writing for someone so young is fantastic! Of course, young people can have tons of wisdom and I always learn from the next generation. Definitely ordering the book, THE ONE THING; will update you 🙂 So glad you are forging your own path and creating your own identity…so happy for you!

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jelena December 27, 2018 - 6:40 pm

Thank you, Padma! Yeyyy, glad you will join the book club. 🙂 Come back here to share your insights. Thank you for your kindness.

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Sonia January 18, 2019 - 1:33 pm

Thank you Jelena for the advice! I always think that be a multitasking person is the better thing BUT reading your wise post I understood that I’m totally wrong! Fantastic! I love reading your words and for me sounds like overcoming my life. I’m very happy to know you even not personally . I confess you that I would like to have this thoughts when I was younger than today so It’s never too late to put new ideas into practice. Love Sonia 🙂

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Violeta Grujicic January 18, 2019 - 5:45 pm

Hi Jelena,

I completely agree with you, multitasking is never good, at least it was not good form my family and me… I think that it is better to do one thing right than million things half done ( I don’t want to say wrong). I did try however to finish a lot of things at the same time, especially when I become mom for the first time.. I knew better when I become mom for the second time! I realized that I have to cherish those moments and to let some things go… We can not live the same life as the one we had before we became parents, and that is totally fine and really ok, because we are starting a new journey of parenthood, and that is one of the most important journey for every human being. I can not say it is not difficult and challenging, but nevertheless it is so beautiful and fulfilling. I did learn to organize better and to have priorities in my life..I learned to say NO, and to maybe lose some friends, and to have arguments with some family members, but I stayed true to myself and my family, and i think i was right. Multitasking is silent killer in my opinion, and I did realize that I have only two hands and two legs, and I can not divide myself in 2, and be at the same time in 2 or 3 places!!!I love your posts and admire your willingness and your passion to read and write, and share your knowledge and wisdom. Thank you, all the best! Love, Violeta.

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