Have you been multitasking in order to save time?
If you have, then I have some bad news for you:
Multitasking is an illusion.
It’s a bill of goods we’ve been sold – the promise of getting more done in less time.
Of all the reasons multitasking does not actually work, the first and most important is the human brain.
THE TRUTH ABOUT MULTITASKING
Despite how it might seem, the human brain can only focus on one thing at a time. To change to a different task, our brains require “switching time.” Due to switching time, research shows that multitasking leads to the following outcomes:
- You slow down – it reduces your overall efficiency at getting things done. This defeats the whole purpose of trying to multitask to speed up and get done sooner!
- You make more mistakes – the quality of your work suffers. People had lower accuracy in research test settings. This can have important consequences for you at work.
- Your productivity can drop by as much as 40%. This is mostly due to the time spent in getting your mind’s attention off of one task and onto another.
- Your IQ can actually decrease. Frequently shifting where you are putting your attention lowers your brain’s ability to sustain attention when needed for important situations.
ARE WOMEN BETTER THAN MEN AT MULTITASKING?
You may have heard that women are better at multitasking than men. Research shows that this is true but ONLY for simple tasks, such as daily tasks that require minimal mental processing. For example, I can watch TV and fold laundry at the same time. With more complex tasks though, the genders are equally bad at multitasking.
Here’s a funny finding in the research on multitasking. Study subjects were asked, “How good are you at multitasking?” Those who said they were good at multitasking, actually performed worse on the tests!
THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is that like I said, multitasking is overrated. To maximize your productivity, schedule your tasks and focus on doing one at a time. Perhaps you need to set a limited amount of time, 20 minutes, for example, to practice giving one task your focused attention. Your brain (and your schedule) will thank you!