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May 1, 2015 // 8:30 AM

The Bad Habit That Costs Businesses $450 Billion Annually [Infographic]

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Through the hundreds of job descriptions I’ve read and submitted applications for runs a common thread. It’s a phrase I’ve noticed in postings for product management, for production at agencies, for communications, and research, and writing positions: “the ability to multitask.”

According to Merriam-Webster, multitasking is “the performance of multiple tasks at one time.” Surely all these jobs weren’t asking for that. Would I be expected to write two blog posts at once, one with my left hand and one with my right?

Of course not. What these hiring managers were asking for was the ability to juggle multiple projects in parallel and deliver them on time without getting overwhelmed. It’s a good thing, too, because true multitasking costs an estimated $450 billion annually. The infographic below from Fuze and Visual.ly shows just how devastating multitasking can be for employees' productivity and a business’ health.

On average, people spend just one minute and 15 seconds on a task before they’re interrupted, but it takes them 25 minutes to recover -- a shocking 20:1 ratio of time spent recovering from distractions to time spent actually working.

Once they finally get to work, multitaskers also perform more poorly than non-multitaskers -- they are 40% less productive, and make 50% more mistakes. Heavy multitasking can also temporarily lower your IQ by 15 points, triple the effect of smoking marijuana.

So the next time you get an email when you’re in the middle of researching a new lead, try and ignore the notification until you’ve completed the task you're on. Oprah doesn't multitask, and neither should you.

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How do you avoid multitasking to stay focused? Let us know in the comments below.

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