Multitasking: You’re Not as Productive as You Think

MultitaskingMobile technology enables us to be hyper-connected to an ever-expanding network of social and business worldwide.  It enables us to multitask like never before.  According to a study on technology and human potential, the negative effects of this “always on,” multitasking mentality is an increased loss of patience and the need for instant gratification.

As technology advances, it creates avenues for getting things done.  Working on multiple projects or doing multiple tasks all at the same time logically seems like it would enable us to get far more done during the day. But, what are the actual results of these increasingly prevalent patterns of behavior?  In our new, impatient world, we may be watching television and checking emails at the same time, as well as surfing the net, texting with friends, scheduling appointments, and even throwing in a game of Candy Crush—after all there may be a few seconds of lag time between texts, commercials, and webpage loading.

The question is: How much attention are we giving to each of the projects or tasks we are doing? Are we really being that productive when multitasking?

“When we talk about multitasking, we are really talking about attention.” —Christine Rosen, The Myth of Multitasking

One study estimates that multitasking costs global businesses $450 billion each year.  The research shows that people who engage in multitasking actually end up wasting 40 percent of their productive time switching between tasks.  They also have a higher susceptibility to distractions.  Why is this?

According to a study on distracted drivers, multitasking is a myth.  In this study, it was revealed that the brain does not perform two or more tasks at once—what we like to believe it can do when we multitask.  Instead, the brain actually performs these multiple tasks very quickly in a sequential order.  This “attention switching” gives us the false feeling of doing more in less time.

While the brain attempts to juggle the tasks it is given, it must also juggle the focus and attention to each task, this results in a reaction time or delay.  These delays may be a few tenths of a second or more.  That may not seem like a lot, but they do add up.

When we multitask, we are also prone to making mistakes, which we then need to take additional time to fix.  Consequently, multitasking ends up making us ineffectual.

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