I used to be an advocate of multitasking until I did some research on the subject. I always assumed that I was getting more things done by multitasking but research has shown that I may actually have short changed my productivity by focusing on too many things at any given time!
According to the Cambridge dictionary, multitasking is the ability of a computer to operate several programs at one time – that is what we humans attempt to do when we say we are multitasking.
There is a lot written about multitasking and lately a lot of scientific studies have shown that multitasking is actually bad for us. This is what I found out and hopefully this should help you make up your mind on whether to continue multitasking or not.
We all know the benefits of multitasking; it helps us to respond quicker to information and enables us to work on several tasks at any given time. Some people even argue that multitasking is a necessary skill for leadership. I agree that it is to some extent however I think your ability to delegate is more important than your ability to multitask.
So what is the downside to multitasking?
- It increases stress levels
- Your brain is up to 40% slower
- It affects our mental clarity
- It makes it harder to concentrate on single tasks
- It is bad for a child’s intellectual development i.e. attention deficit trait
- A 10 point fall in IQ equivalent to more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking marijuana
- Reduced short term- memory
- Multitaskers complete less in the same time as single-taskers
- Multitaskers more likely to miss important information
- It takes on average 15mins to re-orient to a tasks after switching to another task
This is serious stuff – reduction in IQ and comparisons to the effect of smoking marijuana! Multitasking is not as great a skill as I thought.
Since you are reading this online, try running several programs, pages and browsers in the background? How fast is your computer? Now shut down all the programs leaving just the one you are using to read this article. Again notice how fast your computer is? Even with a Mac (I finally joined the apple family) you will notice the drop in speed as you give your computer more tasks to complete. You may even cause it to shut down due to the overload of requests. This is how our brain copes with information overload and multitasking.
If you are feeling overwhelmed then that is a sure sign that you need to start delegating NOT multitasking. Read my post If you want more time then you need to DELEGATE for steps on how to delegate effectively.