Leadership and…Effectiveness: Does Multitasking Work?
April 7, 2010 1 Comment
According to scientists, continual multitasking doesn’t work. It rewires the brain to expect everything to be handled in short spans of time. It restricts the amount of focused brain energy that we can use to get our work done.
You know the feeling. You’re trying to save time by doing two or three things at once — sending e-mail while on the phone with your boss, listening to a colleague while sorting junk mail, making a list during a meeting.
Suddenly, your brain crashes. It can’t recall what you just did, what was just said. Accusing eyes turn on you awaiting a response — to what?
Ted Ruddock calls it “having a senior moment” — and he’s only 44. Making three points in a conversation recently, he got to No. 3 — and blanked. “It’s a little scary,” says Mr. Ruddock, a Newtown, Conn., chief corporate learning officer, father of three, husband, caregiver to his aged parents and — not surprisingly — inveterate multitasker.
“New Study Shows Pitfalls of Doing Too Much at Once”, article in the Wall Street Journal by Professor David Meyer, University of Michigan Department of Psychology.
David Meyer, the author of Studies Show Pitfalls of Doing Too Much At Once, points out that “a growing body of scientific research shows one of jugglers’ favorite time-saving techniques, multitasking, can actually make you less efficient and, well, stupider. Trying to do two or three things at once or in quick succession can take longer overall than doing them one at a time, and may leave you with reduced brainpower to perform each task.”
In The Myth of Multitasking podcast on ScientificAmerican.com, Karen Hopkin notes that
A study in the journal Neuron shows that when we think we’re getting better at multitasking, we’re really getting faster at switching back and forth between two different things at different times.
What are the pitfalls of trying to do too much at once? “Studies show that we frequently overestimate our ability to handle multiple tasks. For early humans, that sort of miscalculation could have meant becoming a tiger’s lunch. These days, the consequences are more likely to be stress, a blunder — or maybe a car crash.” Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again by John Hamilton, npr.org.
What’s the solution? Here are some suggestions from online authors for focusing in ways that lead to getting more of the right things done in a day:
Multitasking is out, Pinpointed Focus is IN! by Rhonda Hess
How Not to Multitask: Working Simpler and Saner by Leo Babauta
If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing to the Leading in Context Blog for weekly posts.