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Techcouver: Why You Can’t Multitask, and the Key to Being More Productive While Working Remotely

This OpEd by Kevin Collins, CEO, Charli AI was originally published by Techcouver on December 14, 2020
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Just as the key to success is to specialize, the key to being more productive is to single-task. Granted, single-tasking has never been more difficult now that we live, work, and play at home.

But the proof is in the data – data that Charli AI collected in an independent national survey among 1,000 Canadian professionals in November 2020.

When asked about their multitasking and productivity habits while working from home, a majority of Canadian professionals (55%) said they didn’t feel in complete control of the tasks at hand.

Multitasking, a productivity killer

Multitasking is an inefficient and ineffective way to get work done. We recently found that more than three-in-five people (63%) said they typically work on at least two or three different tasks at any given time.

Unfortunately, our current understanding of what it means to ‘be productive’ has perpetuated the idea that multitasking is a productivity enabler, celebrating a do-it-all culture, being a jack-of-all-trades, and equating being busy with bringing value. This concept needs to be redefined.

If you really want to excel and create high-quality work, you need to eliminate distractions and disruptions, and focus – you need to single-task. When you’re on one of your many Zoom calls for the day, it shouldn’t come as news that you actually have to listen and focus on the speakers.

But still, 72% of professionals aged 18-34 are likely to be multitasking during work calls. By now, we’re all well-acquainted with the tell-tale eye darting of the multitasker on the video call.

Taking a ‘single-tasking’ approach to work

Now that we live where we work, and work where we live, we’re all dealing with more distractions than ever before. The best thing you can do when you find yourself juggling multiple priorities is to get organized.

Consider the amount of time you’ve lost trying to get back into a task after being distracted. Imagine how much more effective you would be if a summary of your last steps, and any extra information you needed, was at the ready when it came time to jump back into a task. Organization and task tracking gives you the ability to retrieve information efficiently, as and when you need it.

Above all else, when you’re organized, you offload the mental energy needed to remember information – it’s a “monkey off your back”. Productivity tools, like Charli AI, are being used to help professionals lessen instances of cognitive clutter so they can increase their time spent on focused and deep work. It really is about that work-life balance.

Looking ahead

In all honesty, technology is not helping us solve our productivity woes. In fact, it’s making the problem ten times worse and forcing us to multitask more and more.

Over the last few years, we’ve all witnessed the explosion in apps that promise to resolve any number of issues the workforce is facing, including streamlining project management, organizing inboxes, and enhancing productivity. When all is said and done, we’re left with more than a dozen apps spread across our phones and computers, each aimed at reducing our cognitive clutter while also demanding that we bounce between them in the holistic pursuit of productivity.

These apps are actually encouraging people to do more multitasking by existing independently of one another, requiring users to not only learn how to use them, but how to integrate them into their workflows. A lot of professionals waste time copying and pasting information from one app to another, or just trying to remember where stuff is located. What we need is a solution that organizes, tracks and stays on top of the information that’s needed, working seamlessly throughout the day to support single-tasking.

There is a necessary evil to multitasking and, in many ways, there’s no way of escaping it. But as we settle into the new way of work, and all of the distractions that come with it, finding ways to mitigate our impulses to multitask and, instead, sit with one task at a time will be paramount to our ability to not only contribute at work, but be happy at home.

Kevin Collins is the CEO of Charli, a first-of-its-kind conversational AI-driven productivity manager, available on any browser, that’s designed to automate admin work and help workplace professionals put more life into their work-life balance.