5 Harmful Multitasking College Habits

Given how busy you are during your college years, it only makes sense that you try to multitask as much as possible. After all, with so much to do, it seems unwise not to try to do several things at the same time. Unfortunately, however, while there can be some smart ways to multitask in college, there are some multitasking habits that will likely result in more harm than progress. 

Bad Habit #1: Thinking you can be social while getting your homework done.

Do some people study, learn, and retain information better with some kind of background noise going on? Of course. But there’s a pretty big difference between background noise and foreground distraction. If you’re talking with friends more than you’re doing homework, guess what? Your homework, reading, studying, etc., has now become the background distraction. If you want to multitask while studying, consider putting on some pleasant music or studying quietly with a focused friend.

Bad Habit #2: Multitasking with social media.

Can social media be used smartly during your time in college? Definitely. But staring at a blank screen as you try to start your paper, and then switching tabs to check out Instagram and Facebook every few minutes, is not multitasking — that’s distraction. If you want to engage with social media as you study, use it as a reward — say, 5 minutes on Snapchat for every paragraph you write. 

Bad Habit #3: Multitasking in class.

You are paying a lot of money for each and every class you attend. Consequently, setting up your laptop in class just to surf the web during the lecture is a rather rich example of counterproductive multitasking. Technically, you may have been in class, but you certainly weren’t present. If you’d like to do something in addition to, for example, listening to a boring lecture, make sure the activities complement each other: Tweet (productively and positively) with other students about what’s being discussed; take notes by hand or on your laptop; make a list of how the material the professor is covering will relate to an upcoming assignment or exam. Don’t let your multitasking cause your brain to go someplace it’s not supposed to be at the moment.

Bad Habit #4: Confusing multitasking with procrastination.

It can be really, really hard not to procrastinate in college. That being said, make sure you’re honest with yourself about whether you’re really multitasking — or procrastinating — at times when you feel especially stressed. You may be trying so hard to get everything done at once that you end up getting nothing done at all. If that’s the case, try to prioritize. Focus on what needs to get done first and how you can accomplish that task in a way that completes it within a set period of time. Doing several things at the same time in a way that nothing gets done? Procrastinating. Doing several things at the same time in a way that makes significant progress on everything? Multitasking.

Bad Habit #5: Multi-Other-People’s-Tasks-ing.

You likely have enough on your plate without assuming the to-do items of other folks, even if they are your friends (or your family or roommate or significant other). If you find yourself trying to do things with or for others, that’s fine — as long as those added tasks don’t take away from what you need to get done, too. If, however, you find yourself trying to do your own tasks (e.g., reading) but are being sidetracked by someone else’s needs (e.g., drama), then you’re not really multitasking. If you’d like to support someone else, tell them that you don’t have the mental and emotional focus that you think they deserve and that you’d like to give right now. See if you can meet up with them in an hour or two — when you get your tasks done and your mind frees up, of course — so that you can not only get several of your tasks done but also get all of them done well.