Serial multitaskers - worse than they think

Funny No Cell Phone Sign
Today an article appeared in the Telegraph about the impact multi-tasking has and the fact that it's actually not as effective as we might think.

Or at least those who think they're great at multi-tasking are likely to be the worst.

It also relates to another news item I saw recently about accident prone texters - oblivious to the world around them - who fall down stairs, walk in to lamp posts, fall down holes, trip over pavements and even walk into oncoming traffic - all while texting or using their mobile phones.

Just goes to show that some people can't walk and talk at the same time - let alone do anything more complex like driving.

Fortunately most of these incidents only result in appearing foolish or a slight dent to one's pride as you pick yourself up from the floor, rather than serious injury.

In reality it's better to focus on doing one thing at a time and doing it well rather than trying to do two or more things and doing none of them well.  According to recent estimates you could actually be reducing your productivity by trying to multi-task.

When we 'multi-task' we're rarely doing two things at exactly the same time unless one of those things is automatic and we don't need to expend any brain energy on doing it or we're using different parts of our brain.

What's actually happening is you're switching quickly between one task and another - writing an email while talking on the phone - reading a report while sending a text ...

  • If you multi-task it will take you longer to complete both tasks than if you just did one at a time.
  • Focus on doing what's important rather than trying to do everything.
  • Try batch-processing tasks - group similar tasks together and set aside time to do them e.g. email, phone calls.
  • Set aside time in the day for specific tasks and avoid the temptation to 'multi-task' or get distracted in that time.

How often do you multi-task during the day and how does it affect your productivity and efficiency?


Related articles:

Serial-multitaskers 'worse at multitasking' (telegraph.co.uk)
The Myth of multi-tasking (blog post)

(Photo credits: www.smartsign.com)
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