How Being Busy Is Reducing Your Productivity

Socrates : Beware the bareness of a busy life

busy-multitasking

Never in human history have people been as busy as they are now. If you look everywhere around you everybody is up to something. Technology alone has made us even more busy. How then do you become more productive, not more busier?

In an interesting study compiled by Dr Travis Bradberry, the co-author of the New York Times best seller, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, the University of Michigan published a study recently that showed that switching what you’re doing mid-task increases the time it takes you to finish both tasks by 25%. Microsoft decided to study this phenomenon in their workers and found that it took people an average of 15 minutes to return to their important projects (such as writing reports or computer code) every time they were interrupted by e-mails, phone calls, or other messages. They didn’t spend the 15 minutes on the interrupting messages, either; the interruptions led them to stray to other activities, such as surfing the web for pleasure.

Beyond interruptions, busyness reduces productivity because there’s a bottleneck in the brain that prevents us from concentrating on two things at once. When you try to do two things at once, your brain lacks the capacity to perform both tasks successfully. In a breakthrough study, René Marois and his colleagues at Vanderbuilt University used MRIs to successfully pinpoint a physical source for this bottleneck.

Researchers from the University of Chicago found that the belief that busyness is a sign of success and hard work is so prevalent that we actually fear inactivity. A recent study there coined the term idleness aversion to describe how people are drawn to being busy regardless of how busyness harms their productivity.

The researchers also found that we use busyness to hide from our laziness and fear of failure. We burn valuable time doing things that aren’t necessary or important because this busyness makes us feel productive. For instance, responding to non-urgent e-mails when you know you have a big project that you need to finish. It’s tough, but you need to recognize when you’re using trivial activities to shield yourself from sloth or fear.

So how do you do you keep from being too busy in your life and yet remain productive? What’s your strategy?

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