The ability to multitask is often considered an art – one that many of us strive to master.

We all know what it’s like to do a balancing act between things like work life, childcare, pet care, household chores and anything else that comes our way, perhaps this year more than ever.

And women in particular are often considered particularly adept at multitasking.

Is it a stereotype? Possibly not.

One study in 2003 compared groups of 120 men and women jumping between tasks in rapid succession. It showed that, in certain scenarios, the women took a quicker and more methodical approach.

But the study also showed that when tasks were tackled one at a time, the results were equal, and that’s an important finding.

Because, putting the battle-of-the-sexes debate to the side, the fact is we are all more effective at getting things done when we monotask.

Being an expert juggler should no longer be considered a badge of honour – we need to stop striving for that and start exploring ways to monotask more effectively.

Without a doubt, that’s the way to get things done well.

A client recently told me “with multitasking there’s a fine line between feeling inspired and feeling anxious” and they hit the nail on the head. At times it can be exhausting, stress-inducing and counter-productive.

There have been a range of scientific studies to back this, one of which showed it well and truly is a productivity killer – reducing productivity by as much as 40 per cent.

Because when we jump between too many tasks, we become a jack of all trades but a master of none. We may get the job done, but probably not as well as we would have if we’d been truly immersed in the task at hand.

Distractions make us less effective, and it takes time to regain our focus, adding precious time on to every job.

If you are a habitual multitasker, don’t start the day with a mammoth to-do list. That makes it all too easy to choose the easy tasks, the low-hanging fruit, which might give you a brief rush of satisfaction until you actually have to tackle the jobs you’ve been putting off.

Instead, think of what you want to achieve – ideally just two or three key objectives – that will mean your day has had a successful outcome. This approach will reduce stress and bring you more focus and real satisfaction.

Remember the four Ds. Do, delegate, delay, delete.

Workout what you absolutely must do. Utilise those around you and their skills instead of trying to take control of everything. Be realistic about what tasks can wait. And be honest about which tasks are unimportant or unnecessary.

And last but not least, know when to stop, even if it’s just for a few mindful moments. If you feel overwhelmed, step away and maybe even try some breathing exercises. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so calming.

I’m not saying you should eliminate multitasking altogether as circumstances don’t always permit it.

This week I’ve been moving house, flying from one task to the next and sometimes forgetting what I set out to do in the first place. In fact, in the course of writing this article I’ve already had to pause twice to take a phone call, answer the door, and got distracted by a What’s App group chat. The irony isn’t lost on me.

But I do firmly believe that if we can shift our mindsets and look at the areas where we can realistically monotask, it will make a tangible difference not only to our productivity, but also to our mental health and wellbeing.

Laura Gordon is a CEO coach and group chair with Vistage International, a global leadership development network for CEOs