For years, the term “multitasking” was the thing to do. Do more than one job at a time, and do them all very well.
That’s what the experts told us and how we would get ahead.
Experts define it this way:
- Performing two or more tasks simultaneously
- Switching back and forth from one thing to another
- Performing a number of tasks in rapid succession
Those who could perform multiple projects at the same time were considered superior compared to those who had to focus on only one task at a time.
Science measured the quality of the tasks completed by the multi-tasker and those perform by a single task.
Busy Silicon Valley workers believed that it was required to work on more than one project at a time to stay employed. It was the only way to compete.
However, research tells us that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks as we like to think they are. There are researchers that say that multitasking can actually reduce productivity by as much as 40 percent.
What is it about multitasking that reduces productivity? It seems as though you may be actually accomplishing a lot, more than one job at the same time. In actuality, what you are really doing is just changing your attention and focus from one thing to the next.
Distraction becomes more apparent. By shifting from one task to another doesn’t allow you to solve problems and allow creativity to get started.
Bottom line: You don’t do as good a job on either task.
In fact, multitasking may reduce your talent and intelligence on any particular project.
A study at Stanford University discovered that regular multitasking also makes it harder for people to focus on a single task and, perhaps more importantly, “allow[s] goal-irrelevant information to compete with goal-relevant information.” In other words, daily multitasking makes you:
- LESS effective when multitasking.
- LESS effective when not multitasking.
- LESS effective at prioritizing to achieve goals.
Why does this happen? The study says that when you’re multitasking, you reduce your intelligence, that is measured by your ability to comprehend what you’re seeing and hearing.
A landmark study from York University in the UK found that on a standard comprehension test, multitaskers scored 11 percent lower than those who weren’t multitasking.
And, what is even more disturbing, the researchers found that just sitting near somebody who is multitasking reduces your comprehension by 17 percent!
What happens here is that by being next to someone who is constantly changing screens or projects pollutes those around the other people.
It has also been found that by focusing on one project at a time reveals that it takes less time to do one thing at once and that the quality of that project is superior.
So, by listing the tasks at hand, make a list and do one at a time. You’ll actually be ahead.