As freelancers, we’re the head of every department: business development, billing, account management – just to name a few. Naturally, most of us juggle these tasks on a daily basis, trying to make sure nothing falls between the cracks. However, if we truly knew the disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers, we'd restructure our entire approach!

Studies have proven that multitasking makes you work at slower speeds and produce lower quality work.

But certainly, there are exceptions for tech-savvy freelancers who are switching between their favourite tasks…right?

Unfortunately, the disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers are even greater, as we rely on our organisational skills to run our businesses.

1. Our brains take longer to locate relevant information when we multitask.

When we think we're multitasking, we’re actually making our brains juggle tasks- and our brains are terrible at juggling. Multitaskers quickly get bogged down by all the sources incoming information, and when they try to find the information that's relevant to the task at hand, it takes them a longer time to sift through it all to find what they need.

disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers
Isolating relevant information while multitasking is like trying to find all the blue hats in the crowd.
Photographer: Laurentiu Morariu | Source: Unsplash

Not only does multitasking create a giant mess of information for us to sift through, it also ensures that we're never fully focused on any one task. That leads to poor performance, which can ruin contracts and client relationships, and is one of the worst disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers.

Each time we switch from one task to another, our brain needs time to recall the information about this specific task. One study from Carnegie Mellon University says that the mental blocks caused by task-switching can make you lose up to 40% of your productive time.

2. Multitasking means we're never fully focused on any of our tasks.

Multitasking has been an official word for decades now, although it isn't the most accurate term. It’s not really multitasking because our brains can’t actually concentrate on two tasks at once! Task-switching is a much more accurate description of this bad habit.

When we multitask, we're actually constantly switching our focus between tasks, never fully concentrating on either of them.

It happens without us even noticing it sometimes: we'll work a little on a Google doc, then click over to answer an incoming email, then remember about that photo we need to edit for our article. We may think we're pulling it all together, but what we're actually doing is giving 30% of our attention to each task.

disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers
Worst of all: we don't even notice the time we're losing by task-switching!
Photographer: Luke Chesser | Source: Unsplash

Task-switching causes us to lose time and quality in our work, but there are much more sinister disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers at hand.

3. Multitasking deteriorates our working memory and sustained attention.

The Carnegie Mellon study also found that the average online worker switches between tasks and online tools around every 2-3 minutes. That's a very high frequency of task-switching- and it becomes habitual.

Once we're using multitasking as our main method, we often stop realizing that we’re task-switching. We're constantly keeping a row of tabs open to pop into when the mood strikes. We check our mail and socials constantly so we can shoot off quick replies and show we’re on top of it all.

As multitasking becomes a habit, our brain is naturally inclined to check up on tasks and becomes worse at sustaining our attention.

These hyper-clicky habits become our norm and soon enough we can't even stand to look at the same task for more than 5 minutes. Task-switching actually trains your brain to be easily distracted

disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers
You might even notice that multitasking has disadvantages in your social life, too.
Photographer: Gigi | Source: Unsplash

3 Disadvantages of Multitasking for Freelancers

Let's recap: what exactly about multitasking makes it so bad for freelancers?

  1. Your brain loses time sifting through the mass of information that multitasking creates to find the relevant information for a task.
  2. Multitasking ensures we're never giving 100% to any of our tasks.
  3. Task-switching trains your brain to welcome (and click on) distractions.

So, how can we put an end to the stressful disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers and get our productive workflow back? Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Load any internet pages you'll need for the task at hand and then turn off your Wi-Fi.
  • Only check your emails once a day at a designated time.
  • Turn social media notifications off on your devices.
  • Don't keep a million tabs open!
  • Try the Pomodoro technique.
  • Schedule specific break times and stick to them.

Have other suggestions for strengthening focus and combatting the disadvantages of multitasking for freelancers? Comment below and share with the tribe.

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