Entrepreneurs and small business owners are, almost by default, individuals that can handle multiple projects, work well with others, and have the ability to juggle different tasks simultaneously. With the continued proliferation of multitasking and productivity tools, it is even easier for you to be connected to all aspects of your business on a constantly -- social media in and of itself can serve as cost effective platform to develop your business.

You are probably reading this article while doing something else -- multitasking is just part of being an entrepreneur. But is it really more productive? 

According to a research study in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, only 2.5 percent of individuals are capable of multitasking effectively over long periods of time -- much lower than you might think. 

More and more, however, there are cases, studies, and coverage of just how many  employees are burning out, and this issue is even more critical for entrepreneurs. You are, the driving force of your business, and are multitasking to keep your your business developing and growing. You and I both know, however, if you are trying to do too many things at once, the overall quality of the projects you are doing will suffer.

Scientific studies, including several performed at Sussex University in the U.K., have found that people who chronically multitask are less able to focus and pay attention compared to individuals who do not multitask as often. 

This can make the difference between remembering to follow-up with your new prospective customer, filing your quarterly taxes, networking effectively with investors, or dropping the ball on one or many of these activities. Put another way, the multitasking that you are doing to help your business may be hurting your productivity, profitability, and prospects for future growth.   

Additional research, featured by the American Psychological Association, can be even more sobering. That research indicates that the more you multitask, over a specific day or a longer period of time, the more distracted and less productive you become.

Better time management, and improving your ability to focus on the projects that really matter to your business are things you and I both know is important, but what are some steps you can take to get this ball rolling?

Let's take a look at a few things to remember and focus on:

1. Make focusing a part of your routine.

Taking some time out of the daily hustle and bustle of running your business to focus on mapping out your week or month will help you organize your week more effectively. In addition to possibly reminding you of things that might have slipped your mind, writing goals and objectives down has been proven to help you reach them. Establishing this routine will also make you more likely to stick to this process, even when things might be busier than usual.

2. Organize your tasks into different buckets.

Summarizing a leadership methodology used by Dwight Eisenhower and others, you need to be able to distinguish between what is urgent and what is important. Urgent tasks will be recognizable to you -- putting out client related fires, dealing with new competition, and handling shipping issues.

Important tasks, on the other hand, might include organizing your calendar, putting together client lists, following up with vendors, and attending networking or investing events in your area.

3. Don't mix social media and mentally intense work.

Social media is a tool, regardless of specific platform, that is simultaneously helpful to business and can be a drain on your productivity and focus. I would never recommend cutting out social media totally -- after all it is a very powerful tool that can expand your businesses reach with little to know financial investment.

Attempting to tweet, livestream, and record podcasts while also reviewing a request for proposal, client documents, or tax related information might end up hurting your end products across the board.

Multitasking is something that is embedded into the mindset of every entrepreneur, and is increasingly thought of as an effective management tool, and in small doses it definitely can boost productivity. With this in mind, the inability to focus and drill down on high priority business issues can cost you time, money, and clients. Taking a break from multitasking, organizing your work into different categories, and using social media when appropriate can help improve your performance, productivity, and bottom line.

Published on: Oct 23, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.