The Multitasking Myth: It’s Not Helping Us Work Faster or Get More Done — It’s Damaging Our Health and Productivity

Natalie Ruiz
4 min readMay 22, 2024


Photo by That’s Her Business on Unsplash

I’m sure I’m not alone with a full calendar, countless chats from team members, my own to-do list, a cell phone that may be lighting up with notifications, and 15,378 open tabs in my browser… So, do we want to talk about focus and the illusion of multitasking?

We live and work in an ‘always on’ society where our employers, friends, and families can reach us at any time of day, and the underlying expectation is that we have a quick response time. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that many of us have come to embrace the idea of multitasking as a necessary survival skill — a way to keep up with the relentless pace of modern life.

However, as tempting as it may be to wear our ability to juggle multiple tasks as a badge of honor, the truth is that what we often think of as multitasking is little more than an illusion — and one that can severely undermine our productivity, focus, and overall performance.🤯

Our brains struggle to truly focus on multiple tasks concurrently. Instead, it shifts attention between tasks, introducing cognitive overhead that can increase errors, diminish concentration, and hinder deeply focused thinking, crucial for complex work.

There are at least six main ways multitasking negatively impacts us:

Productivity Decrease: Research from the University of London found that multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%. This is because switching between tasks uses up cognitive resources and makes it harder to maintain focus.

IQ Drop: A study by the University of London also discovered that multitasking can temporarily lower your IQ by up to 15 points for men and 10 points for women, which is equivalent to losing a night’s sleep.

Error Rate Increase: The American Psychological Association reports that shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40% of someone’s productive time, leading to more mistakes and a lower overall quality of work.

Cognitive Impairment: A Stanford University study found that heavy multitaskers (people who are more susceptible to distractions and have trouble focusing on a single task) had worse performance on tests of working memory and long-term memory.

Time Loss: Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a task after an interruption. This loss of time can significantly impact productivity and efficiency.

Stress Levels: A study from the University of Sussex showed that multitasking can increase stress levels. The researchers found that people who frequently use multiple devices simultaneously had lower gray matter density in a part of the brain responsible for cognitive and emotional control.

Quote by James Clear

Rather than embracing the myth of multitasking, dedicating full attention to one task at a time through single-tasking is generally more effective for productivity and quality output.

So, I urge you to join me in prioritizing focused time for deep work. Resisting the allure and habit of multitasking may be challenging at first, but the rewards in terms of results and productivity are worth it.

The evidence is clear: multitasking is not the productivity booster we once thought it was. Instead, it’s a myth that can detract from our efficiency, lower our IQ, increase errors, and elevate stress levels. By embracing single-tasking, we can reclaim our focus, improve the quality of our work, and reduce brain strain.

🌸 About the Author:

Natalie Ruiz is the CEO of AnswerConnect, a leader in providing innovative human-powered customer experience solutions for small and mid-sized businesses. She has helped drive the company’s growth and expansion through strategic initiatives and a focus on customer-centric services.

Natalie is known for her dynamic leadership style and commitment to empowering teams to achieve peak performance.

She is an award-winning executive recognized as Female Executive of the Year and for Women Helping Women by the Stevie Award Association, a Woman of Influence by the Portland Business Journal, and one of the 100 Women to Know in America.

Connect with Natalie here: on Medium, on LinkedIn, and Instagram

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Natalie Ruiz

Tech CEO. Mom. Non-Profit Board Member. Working to normalize belonging at work. Living in gratitude. Trying to leave people and places better than I find them.