How Multitasking Hurts You

October 5, 2007

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Come on, admit it … you’ve listed it on every single resume you’ve ever submitted. Next to I’m a “people person”, it’s probably the second most generic trait we credit ourselves with. But are we really any good at it, and is it a good idea?

Mutitasking Your way even further behind

Studies show multitasking causes us to work slower, make more mistakes, and experience greater stress … its the perfect strategy for getting less done while driving yourself crazy at the same time!

Actually, we’re horrible at it, and it’s a rather inefficient use of brainpower … but we do it anyway.

We had to know it was too good to be true. Did we really think that we could split our attention between two or more tasks and actually get more done? Of course we did. With so much going on these days, (PTA meetings, football practice, river boat casino*) we desperately hoped that multitasking was the answer. But the truth is a whole other story.

Multitasking is actually a rather inefficient use of brain power. If you doubt this, watch someone try to drive and talk on their cell phone - their IQ drops by the second!

I guess the premise was that by doing two things at once, it would make us twice as productive. Studies, however, paint a different picture. Turns out multitasking causes us to work slower, is mentally taxing, and causes us to make more mistakes. Sounds like a real winning strategy doesn’t it?

So why do so many of us do it? Well duh! We try it because we have a lot to do, and for the most part we aren’t even aware when we’re doing it. When multitasking, its very easy to lose control of our attention without even realizing it.

So what can we do to prevent it?

  • Clear desks help promote clearer concentration, and reduce the urge to multitask.

  • When working on your computer, limit the number of applications you open at any one time. If you’re running five programs, Instant messenger, and constantly looking at your email inbox, you’ll never get anything done!

  • Make a concerted effort to work on just one thing at a time. I know this one makes a lot of people mad, but no more doing email in meetings or while on the phone!

  • Be on your guard while surfing the net. The internet is a particularly tempting place to get caught up in “by the way” moments, and “that looks interesting”, and “what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow”, and “what was I doing?” Oh yea, discussing how easy it is to get distracted and start multitasking.

So remember if you’re multitasking, you’re not running at full capacity. With so much to do these days, who can afford that?

*Thanks Adele, you’re brilliant!

Did you just have a deja vu moment? No, this article was originally posted July 18, 2007 and has now been re-released with audio.

Did you just have a deja vu moment? No, this article was originally posted July 18, 2007 and has now been re-released with audio. :-P

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2 Responses to “How Multitasking Hurts You”

  1. Alan on October 7th, 2007 7:55 pm

    I totally agree. Some people like multitasking because it helps them finish their task faster. However, one factor they are not particular of is the quality of their work which is mostly affected when they are multitasking.

  2. Pamela on October 8th, 2007 4:29 pm

    Multitasking is certainly not the answer to our time problems. We know that if we do several tasks at the same time, one will receive more attention than the other.

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