May 29, 2012 at 8:35 AM ET
By Christen Brownlee
Let's admit it, ladies: We're smug about our ability to multitask (especially when comparing notes with our male counterparts). But if you think checking email while you're watching the news and ironing that work shirt for tomorrow is helping you get more done in less time -- it's not -- though you are getting something else out of it, finds a new study in the Journal of Communication.
Even though studies prove we're less productive when multitasking, we keep at it because it makes us feel good, says study author Zheng Wang, PhD, of Ohio State University. Dr. Wang and her colleagues had college students check in three times a day for four weeks, each time reporting what they were doing and why. The results? Most reported doing several activities at the same time--even though it made them less productive -- because it gave them a boost of happiness.
Albeit a delusional boost: "It's a misperception," says Dr. Wang. We think we feel good because we're getting more things done, but we're really not doing ourselves any favors. How do you break the habit? Jim Taylor, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Denver tells you how:
Purposely under-schedule your day. "Prioritize and simplify, and really decide what needs to get done," Dr. Taylor says. You'll be surprised at how much time you'll have left for other tasks when you concentrate individually on just the essentials -- and more time to get a genuine happiness boost, like calling your BFF.
Put blinders on. Take unnecessary items out of your field of view. "People love to clutter their lives and their workspaces," says Dr. Taylor. But these visual clues can pull you away from the task at hand.
Do some long-term thinking. Answering every email that comes in might make you feel good for a minute or two, Dr. Taylor explains, but getting that big report done will make you feel good for days. Decide what your priorities are, and stick with them.
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