Why do people multitask? Most people think that they can save time by trying to do 2 or 3 things at once. Typical multitasking examples include: sending emails while on the phone, listening to a colleague while sorting mail, or making a list during a meeting. While most people think they are being more productive, growing research shows that multitasking actually makes you less effecient and reduces brainpower to perform each task.
The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study showing that those that multitask are less effective than those who focus on one project at a time.
More and more studies are coming out with evidence that multitasking is problematic. According to CNN.com, heavy multitaskers did worse on attention tests than non-multitaskers and the multitaskers were more easily distracted by irrelevant information.
Some additional effects of mulitasking are that it is linked to short term memory loss, it can induce a stress response that when prolonged can damage cells that form new memory, it can change your ability to concentrate or increase gaps in your attentiveness, and it can increase the chance of mistakes.
What can we do? The primary skill we need to overcome multitasking is the ability to FOCUS. We also need to be able to handle interuptions and eliminate distractions.
Focus on one task at a time. This means means doing something, and thinking about what you’re doing at the same time.
What are you doing right now? The task that you are working on “right now” should be the only thing that you are focused on. You should elimate all other distractions by silencing your phone, turning off email notifications, putting a “do not disturb” sign on your door,etc. It is also important to have a clutter-free workspace, which in turn will allow you to be more productive.
Most of the time, multitasking is not the best choice to increasing productivity. So remember, when you find yourself chatting via instant messenger, emailing your boss, and surfing the web all at the same time, you may want think again and focus on just one activity at a time!
Do you have a “multitasking” mistake or horror story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it.
If your company would like to learn more about the Dangers of Multitasking and learn techniques to help employees Focus consistantly, let us know. We offer a great productivity workshop to address just this issue.