I look at a lot of articles about work at home moms and others and one of the things we like to brag about is how well we do at multitasking, but is that really a good thing? If you are doing multiple things that are related, it’s not really multitasking, like working the clutch, gas and gear shift in your car. They are all subtasks of the larger task, driving. So, you can do more than one thing at a time when they are related in such a way and it’s productive, you get where you’re going.
However, when you multitask by doing more than one unrelated task at a time, you’re actually less productive. In this blog post by Ruth Mantell of Market Watch, she quotes Clifford Nass, director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab at Stanford University; “It’s unequivocally the case that workers who are doing multiple things at one time are doing them poorly.” “The human brain just really isn’t built to switch rapidly from one task to another. Workers who constantly multitask are hurting their ability to get work done, even when they are not multitasking. People become much more distracted, can’t manage their memory very well.”
In another article by Adam Gorlick of the Stanford News, he writes about the studies they’ve done with multitasking. The studies suggest that multitasking isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. It doesn’t actually mean you’re better at switching between complex tasks and doing more things at once. It actually means you lack focus and have less ability to concentrate than those that don’t multitask.
There’s a book you can get from Amazon about this topic as well. It’s called The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done. The myth has always been that those able to multitask were somehow smarter and more productive than those who focus on doing one task at a time. There have been more studies than those I talked about here that show multitasking is less productive and some studies that suggest the more you multi task, the more you harm your ability to focus and concentrate.
The bottom line: Make your to do list and do one thing at a time and do each thing as if it were the only or most important task of the day. If by the end of the day you haven’t completed all of your tasks, it’s not the end of the world. None of us is that important. 🙂