It’s well known that multitasking is a productivity killer, but in the face of powerful digital distractions, it’s hard to stay focused on a single task. Worse, much of our document-drafting technology forces us to switch screens and tasks, introducing unnecessary friction. There’s a better approach: simplifying your technology and your workflows.
The Costs of Distraction and Task-Switching
Multitasking used to be all the rage. It felt like a way to get more done, and it seemed to make sense. Sure, you could do the dishes and catch up with your spouse at the same time. You could fold laundry while watching TV in the evening. You could even try to have a business meeting during your morning commute. But we quickly learned that only some tasks are conducive to multitasking—and knowledge work, including the practice of law, isn’t on that list.
Individuals who try to multitask lose up to 40 percent of their productivity due to the time it takes to switch back and forth between different tasks (the ones they believe they’re doing at the same time). Those individual costs translate, unsurprisingly, into organizational costs, to the tune of $450 billion per year, globally, in lost productivity.
That’s not all: not only are we not getting as much done while we’re multitasking, but multitasking itself also makes us worse at work. As a 2009 Stanford study revealed, “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”
In the decade since, we haven’t markedly improved the way we work. Instead, the challenge of digital distractions has only intensified as the Millennial generation—the first digital-native generation—has entered the workforce. One study found that Millennials “switch their attention between media platforms 27 times per hour.” Nor is it just the younger set that struggles to ignore distracting technology: research has shown that knowledge workers in general switch their attention between different apps and websites more than 300 times every day.
And even when we think we’re focusing on one thing at a time—like drafting a document—our technology can get in the way.
Does Your Document-Drafting Technology Require You to Switch Tasks?
The very technology you use to draft documents can pull you off task in two distinct ways. For one, it may require you to switch screens—and mental tasks—as you move through your document-creation process. You need to start a new document, but you also need to mine your document library for existing content that will jumpstart your current project. Then you need to proofread and check your document, collaborate on your content, and clean it up before you share it. How many screens does that involve?
Besides switching screens, there’s another, more subtle, way that traditional document-drafting technology forces task-switching: it requires that you switch between doing your document processes and thinking about those processes. When you have to constantly ask yourself what your next step is or decide what to do, you’re mentally pulling yourself out of the work to think about the work—which adds up to a significant workflow interruption.
Fortunately, there’s a better way to work.
Simplify Your Document Drafting by Avoiding Task-Switching
At Litera Microsystems, we think your document-drafting technology should help you focus on what matters, not distract you or draw you off-task. That’s why we’ve created one integrated ribbon within Microsoft Word that includes all of the document-drafting tasks within a legal workflow. That means you don’t have to disrupt your thought process or step out of your drafting groove to think about what to do next. You just work from left to right and everything gets done—simply, easily, and quickly. That’s the true meaning of productivity.