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task switching vs multitasking

I’m sure you’ve heard about how bad multitasking is a million times.

But what about task switching, or context switching, how it’s also called? Which of the two harms your productivity more?

To be honest, I’ve never heard of task or context switching up until a few months ago. Up until that point, I was well aware that multitasking is productivity’s worst enemy. But I never really thought about the impact the combination of different tasks could have.

As a result, it would often take me days to complete a blog post because I felt so productive after 10 minutes that I thought I could also get some other things done.

Well, in the end I didn’t really get anything done properly… Side note, it now only takes me about 2 hours to write and publish a 1500-words article. Check out these 16 tips to write blog posts faster if you’d like to improve your writing time as well.

In this article we’ll look at task switching vs multitasking and what’s worse for your productivity. After that, I’ll give you a few tips that will help you get much more done every single day!

Task Switching vs Multitasking

Okay, let’s first look at task switching vs multitasking. What do they even mean exactly?

What is task switching?

Task switching is generally referred to as rapidly switching between two different tasks. Research has shown that this significantly slows our work efficiency. We have to slow down and use “extensive high-level cognitive processing” to shift from one task to the next.

As a result, the more you switch, the longer it will take you to get done with both tasks.

What is multitasking?

Multitasking is generally defined as performing multiple tasks at the same time. In contrast to task switching, you don’t necessarily switch from one task to the next, but you perform them simultaneously.

If we’re looking at the classic kind of multitasking, for instance reading a book while having dinner or scrolling through IG while writing an article, then it’s actually the exact same as task switching. It’s virtually impossible to do those things simultaneously. For instance, you always have to pause in your book to take a bite or your food will end up in your lap instead of your mouth.

Both task switching and multitasking are incredibly draining and will harm your productivity
Both task switching and multitasking are incredibly draining and will harm your productivity

So, which is worse, task switching or multitasking?

Honestly, they’re both equally bad for your productivity.

You have to switch between tasks in both cases and every switch requires a lot of mental energy that is just wasted. You’ll be much more efficient and less drained if you avoid either forms.

However, there’s one useful form of multitasking, in my opinion. And this is to combine one mindless task with one that requires mental processing. For instance, you can easily listen to a podcast while talking a walk. Walking is something that can totally happen without your conscious mind being present. And this way you can still stimulate your brain and educate yourself.

What is monotasking?

So, what is it that you should do to get more done in less time?

That’s right, monotasking.

This is exactly what it sounds like, meaning to only work on one task for a certain amount of time.

Now, let’s look at a few ways that will help you improve your productivity.

You'll be much more productive by simply working on one kind of task at a time
You’ll be much more productive by simply working on one kind of task at a time

How to be more productive

Here are a few key elements that you can implement in your daily schedule that will help you be more productive.

Looking for more productivity tips? Here are some more articles for you:

Work in blocks

Monotasking works best if you work in blocks. Calendar blocking is a great add on for that. This simply means that you add blocks to your calendar, during which you only work on one task or take a bunch of similar blocks together.

Figure out when your productive times are during the day. Then add work blocks to your calendar for those times. Next, add break blocks in between.

This way you will have switches, because it’s impossible to work 8 hours straight without breaks 5 days a week. But they will be very few. For instance, if you have 3 or 4 work blocks that you always just use to work on one specific task or similar tasks, then you’ll only have about 8 switches between your work and your break blocks.

That’s a huge improvement compared to the hundreds or thousands of switches you’d have with task switching or multitasking.

Make use of calendar blocking to structure your day as efficiently as possible
Make use of calendar blocking to structure your day as efficiently as possible

Batch your work

To add to the first point, make use of batching. This simply means to batch several similar tasks together.

For instance, everything video always (with very few exceptions) happens on Monday for me. This allows me to stay in the same mental zone and I can reduce task switching to a minimum.

Think about all the kinds of tasks you have. What could you batch together? For instance, if you’re writing several blogposts per week, choose one day and then try to write them all in one day.

You can even take this one step further and batch create content for a whole month in one day. This is what I do with Pinterest. Once per month I take one day and create and plan all of my pins in Tailwind for the whole month. Implementing this simple strategy made the process 4 times more efficient. It used to take me about 3 to 4 hours to create all my pins for one website for a week. Now, it takes me the same amount of time for a whole month!

Use the Pomodoro Technique

In order to make best use of your blocks, I highly recommend using the Pomodoro Technique. This is another very simple productivity method where you work in chunks of 25 minutes and then take 5 minute breaks in between.

To learn more, go to:

Separate your work blocks into blocks of 25 minutes. Set a timer and then only work on one task during the whole 25 minutes. After that, take a 5-minute break where you get up from your desk and do something mindless. Try not to take look at your phone until at least 2 Pomodoros are up.

After some time, you can try doing even 2 Pomodoros without a break if a task needs 2 Pomodoros. For instance, that’s the amount of time I need to write a blog post. So, I often work 50 minutes without a break.

Trust me, that’s an incredible productivity booster!

To help you get started, I’ve created a free Pomodoro worksheet where you can track your work hours and your progress.

Download your free Pomodoro Technique printable!

Avoid task switching and multitasking

So, as mentioned before, both task switching and multitasking should be avoided at all cost.

Write down your to dos for the next day the night before and plan which tasks you can take together. Sometimes you’ll probably have a lot of different small tasks that you need to get done. In that case, I recommend including an admin block once per week where you can work through all of those small things.

Take notes when things come up

When you start working in blocks, you’ll inevitably get tons of ideas for other things to do. Resist the urge to do them right away!

Instead, always have a piece of paper next to you or have an open word doc ready where you can take notes. Write all your thoughts that are popping up down. And then put them into a block where they belong or get to them during one of your breaks.

The one exception with multitasking

Okay, so there’s one exception with multitasking, as I’ve mentioned before. But that can only be applied during your break blocks.

I love combining physical and mental activities if the physical one is totally mindless. This just makes it way more fun. I’m now often looking forward to doing chores because that means I get to listen to a podcast or listen to a Youtube video. I often also brush my dog while watching a show on Netflix because these are both mindless tasks and I love having my dog on my lap while watching Netfilx anyway.

He’s a Mini Poodle, so definitely a lap dog 😉

This is Baloo =)

Conclusion

So there you have it.

As you can see, both task switching and multitasking are really bad for your productivity.

If you want to get more done in less time then make sure to structure your days in blocks. Add a couple of work blocks for when you’re generally most focused. And then add a couple of break blocks for the slower times during the day.

Then, make sure to use batching to make best use of monotasking. And to break it down even more, use the Pomodoro Technique to have short, uninterrupted work blocks.

And don’t forget to get your free Pomodoro worksheet to get started right away!

Download your free Pomodoro Technique printable!