The Myth of Multitasking



So here’s the premise: If we do multiple things at once we can get more done faster, right?


Not exactly. More bluntly “Multitasking makes you stupid, studies say” was the headline of an article in The Wall Street Journal. Multitasking makes us think we are doing more, but is really counter-productive.


And studies also say you can’t really multitask. What you are doing is switching back and forth and that makes things take longer and actually diminishes the quality of work.


So why do we do it? Anxiety about what you need to get done causes stress, which then makes us to want to “do something!” to get relief.…. And multitasking, with lack of focus, gives more anxiety, more stress, and a vicious cycle.


So what are common examples of multitasking? Sending or reading e-mail while talking on the phone (you can probably tell when someone is doing it with you), switching between multiple projects, “listening” to a friend or family member while mulling over a work problem, or even worse, looking at your phone.


When we multitask we are continually interrupting ourselves, and “interruption” is the #1 problem that people say keeps them from getting more done.


The Wall Street Journal says research shows that people who multitask are less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that time lost switching between tasks increases with the complexity of the tasks.


Some even say that “Multitasking is unhealthy. According to many studies, and an article in The Toronto Star (“Multitasking Exacts Heavy Toll”) it also compromises memory, causes back pain and can make workers more susceptible to illness.


What is the opposite of multitasking? Focus. It’s the intense, clear concentration of thought on your purpose.  Those moments of being “in the zone” give you the best results and greatest satisfaction. It’s you at your best.


Peter Drucker in The Effective Executive, says “If there is any one ‘secret’ to effectiveness, it is concentration. Effective Executives do first things first and they do one thing at a time.


His study continues: “This is the ‘secret’ of those people who do so many things. They do only one at a time. As a result, they need much less time in the end than the rest of us.”


Is it ever a good idea to multitask? Maybe, when it doesn’t require much of your mind, such as tuning in to the news while fixing dinner or listening to music (or a podcast) while working in the yard or exercising.


But if you want to leave the office earlier, and with a clearer, freer mind, STOP before you multitask again! Ask yourself:  what is multitasking doing to your real priorities, relationships and your quality of life? Remember and use the power of focus.


Now get tips from our guest, Amy Domestico, Talent Executive at Blog Talk Radio, as she tells how she now leaves the office 3-4 hours earlier (and much happier!) than she used to when she was a multitasker!

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