• The Myth of Multitasking
Busy BusinessmanImage courtesy of Piotr Bizior, Bizior Photography

I know people that are very proud of their ability to multitask.  However, as an introvert, multitasking does not work well for me.  I find that I work best and am most efficient when I can focus on one project at a time.

The truth is that everyone functions better with less multitasking.  We can truly only pay attention to one thing at a time.  According to John Medina in Brain Rules:

“Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task.  Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors.” tweet

Instead of multitasking, Medina calls it “task-switching.”  Since people can only have one thought at a time, in order to attempt to do multiple things at the same time, they switch back and forth between thoughts.  Some people are better at task-switching than others, but no one actually has the ability to think about more than one thing at a time.

A good share of my day involves trying to answer emails, while the phone is ringing, someone unexpectedly in my door way, and a project in the background that is due soon. Personally, I am making efforts to get some quiet time in my day so I can focus on one task at a time.  I think that in addition to finding our own time to focus, we also need to admit that multitasking is not effective in our work teams and we should try to arrange schedules such that each person on the team has some time to work without interruption on the projects he or she needs to accomplish. Let’s stop talking about getting better at multitasking, and get better at getting work done.

 

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