We have all been programmed to think that being able to handle several tasks at the same time is a virtue. Today, at job interviews all across the world, thousands of job-seekers are touting themselves to potential employers as “great multitaskers”.
What actually is the definition of multitasking? Does it really make you more productive? These are questions that psychologists have looked at recently and the results may surprise you.
What is Multitasking?
Multitasking is the process of focusing on two or more things at once, hence not giving your full attention to any one thing at any given time. This may seem like a way to get more than one thing done at a time, but does the science back that claim up?
The Psychology of Multitasking
There has been a lot of research completed in recent years that has studied the effect of multitasking. The results are in and they are not what most people expected. Research suggests that multitasking actually reduces productivity and can reduce your life expectancy.
Why is Multitasking Less Productive?
It is not real–Research has shown that multitasking is not what we think it is. It is not doing several tasks at the same time but repetitively switching between tasks. This creates a situation where productivity is wasted when tasked are switched. A comparison would be the energy lost when a transmission shifts between gears.
Mindset–When you are multitasking your brain is constantly switching between one mindset to another. This means that the mindset you get into when doing your dishes is different than when you are cooking dinner. Doing both at once actually slows you down.
Mistakes are common–The truth is that much of what we do takes precision and critical thinking. We lose our “touch” and our critical thinking ability is reduced by as much as 40% when switching between tasks.
Stress that kills–A recent study by the University of California in San Francisco suggests that a person’s heart rate is sustained at a higher pace when multitasking. Add more task mistakes only compounds the problem. A high-stress life is a shorter life, so multitasking may be killing you.
It does not make sense–Scientists say that your short-term memory decreases when you frequently switch between two tasks. This loss of short-term memory cannot be great for doing mistake-free work, can it? Does this make sense to you? Wait. What’s your name again?
What relationship?–Any successful relationship thrives on individual attention and the connection that it creates between partners. Multitasking between emails, texts, household chores, and your significant other makes that connection non-existent. I’ll let you guess what the end result of that will be.
It creates failure–The psychology of focusing and finishing a task prior to move onto the next one has been around for decades. It happens to work, making you more confident with each completed task and helping you complete the next one faster. By multitasking, you are failing.
What Can I Do To Fix It?
That really is a simple answer but a tough thing to execute. The world is full of distraction and society nearly pushes us into multitasking. My advice is to take one task at a time.
Try focusing on one simple task like cleaning the house. Clean one room before moving onto another. Whatever you do, do not move into the next room before finishing the first. Implementing enough of these over a long period of time will build healthy habits.
Now that we have debunked the myth that multitasking is a good thing, how do you think you will change your habits? Will you make multitasking a bygone in your life or will you continue to prove to yourself that you are Superman?
Please report back on any findings that you discover in your own life about the power or power loss that stems from multitasking. I have to run through, this TV show is getting good and the steaks are ready to come off the grill.