Yesterday, I made a big mess. I was trying to be Superwoman and get everything done. Instead, I slowed myself down and am still cleaning up today. What does multitasking cost us?

Before we explore that, here’s a cautionary, humorous, real-life tale. Last night, I had fun plans on the town – dinner and a show in Manhattan with one of my oldest friend’s who is visiting from San Francisco. I had worked hard all day cleaning my apartment and it was time to get ready for the evening. But something caught my eye. Since returning from vacation, I hadn’t washed out my swimsuits, which were hanging on the bathroom doorknob.

Lightening bulb! I could throw one of them in the sink while I took a shower. So, with a sink full of soapy water and the suit, I jumped in the shower to wash my hair. Here’s where it gets amusing.

A few minutes later while shaving my legs I caught a glimpse of the sink. (This is a small apartment-sized bathroom so the tub and the sink are nearly touching.) Time to rinse the suit. I reached over and unplugged the drain to release the water and turned it back on to rinse out the suit. Still in the shower, I put conditioner on my hair and went about the rest of my usual cleansing ritual. A few more minutes passed and then I realized perhaps I should check on the sink situation.

Yikes! The water was running over onto the floor and both my iPhone and home phone lay on the countertop – wet. Half of the big fluffy white bath rug below was drenched. Water was all over the floor. And I still had conditioner in my hair.

I shut off the water in the sink and tossed the two phones onto the dry section of the small rug (luckily I caught those before any damage was done). Cursing, I rinsed out my hair, quickly finished up in the shower and dried off.

I didn’t have time to put the towels and rugs in the dryer in the basement of the building so, I set up the drying rack I use for all my “dry flat” laundry in the tub and draped them over it. At least the mess was cleaned up, so I thought, and I could get back to beauty routine without being too late to meet my friend. I’d have to wash the rugs and towels later when I had more time.

Then, my kitten Buddha, who had keenly observed the clean up effort, wandered over and started sniffing the area under the cabinet the sink is in. What the heck was he doing? He never did that before.

I opened the cabinet and …. More Water. There was water in the bottom of the cabinet, and all the various items packed into the one and only cabinet in the small bathroom were also wet. More cursing!

I put yet another beach towel on the floor, sat down and emptied out the entire cabinet. Travel bags, sample sized bottles of lotion and shampoo, Q-tips, cotton rounds, alcohol, a hair dryer I never use, sunscreen, a wire shelf …. all were either dried off or tossed onto the towel. I wiped out the bottom of the cabinet and put back what I could. The rest I left strewn across the floor to dry out on various towels.

I did make it into the city in time to meet my friend dinner and had an enjoyable evening. But it wasn’t fun dealing with the stress of my multitasking mishap. And I’m not done cleaning up yet! After I finish writing this article, I’m headed to the laundry room in the basement. That rug will never dry without going thru the spin cycle. And, I have to either throw out or put back the items I left all over the floor.

We multitask because we think we can do everything well at once but the truth is that we can’t. Instead, we are switching from one task to another, diluting our attention, spreading ourselves too thin and teetering between different goals.

The truth is Multitasking:

Slows You Down – we do it because we think can get more done in a shorter amount of time but in fact multitasking costs time. Studies show it takes longer to complete activities when multitasking. The smart way to work is Time Blocking. Time blocking is completing things in batches: pay all your bills at one time, then reply to all your emails, then turn to the next project. That allows you to get into the mindset groove each activity requires.

Causes You to Make Mistakes – As my bathroom debacle proves, studies show that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. And the more critical thinking that is required for the tasks, the greater the error for mistakes.

Stresses You Out – Remember the cursing? Making mistakes and wasting your time cleaning up the mess causes stress and unhappiness. Enough said.

Makes You Miss Out on Life – In today’s hyper-connected world, few are stopping to smell the roses … or even catch a glance at what’s going on around them. Research shows that people who are busy doing two things at once don’t even see obvious thing right in front of them. Remember the video of the woman talking on her phone in a mall who tumbled head-first into a fountain? Researchers call it “in-attentional blindness,” and note that although people are technically looking at their surroundings, none of it actually registers in their brains.

Diminishes Your Creativity – “A ha” moments are reduced when you’re multitasking according to research from the University of Illinois. It requires a lot of “working memory” or temporary brain storage and when that is all used up, our ability to think creatively is taken away. There’s just too much going on in our heads for daydreaming and blue sky thinking.

Makes OHIO Impossible – The “only handle it once” rule of productivity goes out the window when you’re multitasking. In fact, you’re likely to have to handle it five or six times. A definite time-sucker.

Multitasking can also:

- Hurt Your Relationships

- Cause Overeating

- Be Deadly

The evidence is strong and it is clear. So the next time you catch yourself answering an email while you’re in the middle of watching a pod cast and on a sales call, STOP. Do yourself a favor. Catch yourself and reset your priorities to finish one task before moving onto the next.

Me? I’ve got to do laundry (the rug), finish cleaning up the bathroom floor, wash out my other swimsuit and assemble my new desk chair – in that order! (Hey do you think I can wash out the suit while I’m cleaning up the rest of the mess?)

Author's Bio: 

Elaine Wellman helps women entrepreneurs create their big juicy vision by tapping into what brings them joy, mastering the skills that lead to happiness, and applying that to all areas of their lives. She is an expert on happiness and success and a certified life coach. For more information on committing to your happiness and success and a free copy of Elaine’s workbook The #1 Secret to Happiness for Successful Women, check out