Is multitasking good or bad for productivity?
I have always been good at multitasking, but I have recently had a debate with a friend who said multitasking is actually inefficient. I believe that I can get a lot more done when multitasking, but I do think it sometimes makes it hard to focus. I am curious what others think. I want to be more efficient and organized this year and wondering if I should try to be more focused on one task at a time. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Multitasking is one of those fuzzy and misleading words that leave people to apply their own definition; its no wonder why so many people don’t live up to an employers expectations of “multitasking.”
There's no doubt that some jobs require jumping in and out of functions of that job quickly. Really, what we’re searching for is a person who can “naturally” shift gears quickly and not requires any significant length of time between functions to recalibrate.
Many jobs simply don’t require the rapid juggling of functions, generally, they are poorly defined and have never been totally developed. As such, much of the juggling and rapid shifting can be taken out of the equation with the help of an experienced third party. However, some jobs do, in fact, require rapid shifting and juggling between functions. These jobs require a very specific behavioral trait for shifting gears rapidly. This unique “trait” can be very difficult to interview for and requires a specialized assessment. Without that assessment, you're just rolling the dice and making an unscientific gut-call and hoping it will work out.
Multitasking is bad for productivity, it just feels good. I know, I am a "multi-tasker". I can show you the number of tabs open on my browser, it's not good for my brain, and not good for my computer. I try my best not to do it, but I still fall victim. I burn out easily when I multi-task and also get annoyed since I try to accomplish multiple goals in a single seating.
Actually, there have been numerous articles and papers published on this particular topic. I quote from an article at brainfacts.org, "Studies show people of all ages perform worse on cognitive tests when juggling tasks. But, the effects of multitasking can be even worse on older adult." Sometimes I get annoyed easily when I multi-task since my thoughts become clouded with all of the things I have to think about.
I read an article where it states that the easy access of information nowadays might be the cause of a rise in "multitaskers". Everything feels so instant nowadays that it created a sense of urgency to get a lot of things done now.
Cheers in being more efficient and organized.
The academic research -- and no, I can't cite it, but I've read summaries in the past -- is that multitasking is a net decrease to productivity. Further, those who think they are best at multitasking are the worst multitaskers, in terms of impact to productivity. In other words, multitaskers are kidding themselves.
Just don't do it.
"Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity. Your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity.” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/multitasking-art-messing-up-several-things-once-vartika-kashyap
I guess, it is good for a team of developers, for example. But as a leader, I prefer monitoring my employees activity anyway. I use such solutions as those from https://www.refog.com/personal-monitor/ for this purpose. It works great, maybe you will like it too
Both. In my experience most of us need to complete tasks that require input or information from someone else in order to continue to the next step. If you do not work on something else, you'll be wasting valuable time waiting. But, sometimes we need to spend a few minutes clearing our heads in order to shift our focus or do a completely different type of task -- for example, moving from developing a schedule for a client's training series to creating content for a training program. I think the biggest time-wasters are interruptions and learning how to manage and minimize those is essential. I have learned to create uninterrupted time blocks for myself so that I can focus on work that requires full concentration. During those time-blocks I don't answer the phone or check e-mails; if someone interrupts me in person I evaluate the priority of the need and assess the consequences of waiting an hour to deal with something. I think it's important to always be kind to people at these decision-moments.
All in all, I think the key is balancing effectiveness with efficiency. We sometimes may be less efficient to be more effective in our use of time.
I like focusing on one thing, and if I wind up having to do something else, I would want to give that my attention, and go back and focus on the original thing. I'm a one at a time person.
I think what a lot of people consider multi-tasking is actually a simple flow from one task to another but someone (erroneously) put a word to the action and BAM we have a society of multi-taskers. Looking for ways to be increase your productivity and remain focused? Try these tips:
1. For those days when you just can’t seem to get focused: Instead of starting with the most time-consuming or disliked responsibilities, try knocking the top five easiest tasks off your To-Do List. You’ll feel like a sense of accomplishment and will be more motivated to take on more comprehensive work.
2. Use a clock: Try working in a 90-minute cycle and setting your alarm for 75 minutes. Use the last 15 minutes to wrap things up; make notations etc. It also gives the chance to shuffle things around if you decide to continue working on your current project.
3. Block your time on a calendar: Scheduling your tasks on a calendar – instead of in your head or on a piece of paper – can help keep you focused and on time. When it’s possible, leave yourself between 15 and 30 minutes between each project to return phone calls or emails or have a chat with a co-worker. This way you’re not slammed at the end of the day.
4. Manage the distractions – Allow yourself to check your email and voice messages one last time before you being working than turn them off. Send your calls to voice mail and schedule an automatic email to send when someone’s emailed you. Make sure you include instructions for what to do if they have an emergency.
5. Work when you’re the most effective – If you write a business report better in the morning, get to work a little earlier than normal. Work better after your co-workers leave for the day? Pick one-day a week to stay a little later.
Humans aren't hard wired to multitask like we do in the modern world, but some argue Women are much more suited than men in this area. Multitasking is a way of survival in business for many, but it needs to be still focused in its own way. For example emails and telephones can be a big distraction. There is a big cross over between good time management which directly helps with multi-tasking. The issue isn't multi-tasking but how you organise your time, prioritise, and focus on what needs to be done.
If your goal is high quality, no. If your goal is quantity with respect to the number of items you have accomplished, specifically for more "no brainer" (as another colleague put it) activities then you may be ok. If high quality is sought after then multi-tasking while working on that particular task most likely will not yield you the best results.