Does Multitasking benefit your business?
July 19, 2018
- By Edward Wajer
We have all heard it before many times when someone says that they are great at multitasking. But, are they really?
Human multitasking is a seeming human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period. An example of multitasking is taking phone calls while typing or reading an email. Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching (Saving the state of the old process and loading the saved state for the new process.) and can cause more errors due to insufficient attention to both tasks. Studies have shown that it is impossible to focus on more than one task at a time effectively.
What humans are really doing is task switching and contrary to popular belief it does not save time. In fact, it will take longer to finish two projects when you are switching between them than it would if you finished each one separately. This can increase stress at work and reduce your productiviy. You may also miss important details of one or both tasks because you aren’t focused 100% on both. In a case where you are on a cell phone and driving, you may react slower and be involved in an accident. According to the American Psychological Association’s Multitasking: Switching costs article: “For example, losing just a half second of time to task switching can make a life-or-death difference for a driver on a cell phone traveling at 30 MPH. During the time the driver is not totally focused on driving the car, it can travel far enough to crash into an obstacle that might otherwise have been avoided.”
A study by the University of London found that people, who multitasked, experienced an IQ score decline similar to those who have stayed up all night. Some of the multitasking men had their IQ drop 15 points, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child. So the next time you find yourself trying to listen to what your boss saying and searching for information on your phone, you may not be able to remember all the information from both tasks. You may be embarrassed if your boss asked you to confirm what he said.
So, in reality, there really isn’t a way for humans to truly multitask, as in doing two things at one time. If your employees are constantly “multitasking” you will not achieve faster and more accurate results. And depending on the environment they work in, they may be at risk of injury. If you do have to work on more than one task then give yourself a time limit for each task (10 to 45 minutes) to focus on one task at a time. You will see that you can finish all the tasks much quicker than switching every couple of minutes.
American Psychological Association’s Multitasking: Switching costs article - http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx
The University of London Study - http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1465496/