We are all guilty of thinking about numerous things at the same time. I picture it as multiple bubbles floating in our heads with titles like laundry, clean house, don’t forget doctor’s appointment, finish that report, get groceries, etc. We have all heard that women are naturally good at multitasking, and this supposedly benefits us.
After a friend of mine read the book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, she explained that women often have multiple “folders” open while men only open one at a time. This enables women to think of multiple things simultaneously while men only have one thing on their minds at a time. However, is multitasking really as good for us as we are led to believe? Is it our friend or our foe?
How Many Tasks Are You Trying to Do Right Now?
Stop and consider how many things you have going on right now. Ok, I’ll start – here is the list of things I have going on at this exact moment:
- Writing this article
- Watching a tv show while writing this article
- Trying to help my son find a replacement tire for his car
- Doing a load of laundry
- Making a grocery list
- Answering texts and emails
How long was your list of current things you are trying to do at this moment? I bet you aren’t surprised at the number, are you?
Multitasking and Switch-Tasking
Multitasking is “the act of undertaking more than one task at a time.” This means that to truly be multitasking, you must be doing two separate tasks simultaneously. An example of multitasking is when I am writing this article and watching a tv show at the same time. Both tasks are being performed hand in hand.
On the other hand, switch-tasking is “shifting one’s attention between tasks that are not related to the same overall goal.” Switch-tasking is when we have different tasks going simultaneously, but we stop one task to do another task. Switch-tasking is when I stop writing my article to go put laundry in the washing machine. I am performing both tasks, but not at the same exact time.
Most researchers would say that people are switch-tasking more often than they are truly multitasking. However, the term multitasking has been used to describe both performing tasks at the same exact time and doing multiple tasks individually during a given time period.
Are These Ways of Doing Things Actually Working?
How productive are we when we multitask or switch-task? In two articles, Cognitive Processes in Task Switching and, The Costs of a Predictable Switch Between Simple Cognitive Tasks, it was found that productivity can be reduced by as much as 40% when we are multitasking or switch-tasking. According to the research conducted, we do not accomplish as much as we would like when we multitask because we become distracted and lose focus.
Rogers and Monsell found in their study that multitasking resulted in more time being consumed to complete each task compared to if the tasks were done individually. While a specific amount of time was not mentioned, the research shows that we take longer when trying to do multiple things in the same time frame. Rubinstein, Evans, and Meyer discovered that even more time was lost if the task was a complicated or irregular one. The study also showed that multitasking causes one to be less mentally organized and not able to easily recognize relevant information. Also, more mistakes and errors are made in our work when we are not focused on one task at a time.
How to Get More Done in Less Time
The one thing I am walking away with after writing this article is that if I want to get more done in less time, I need to stop this bad habit. Why do we think we are saving time by multitasking and switch-tasking? I have reached a point in my life in which I do not like to waste time, so why haven’t I ever realized that by doing multiple things at the same time, I am doing the very thing that annoys me!
So how can we avoid multitasking and switch-tasking? According to www.timemanagementninja.com, here are a few suggestions to avoid this habit:
- Begin and complete one task at a time. Do not allow yourself to start another task until you have completely finished the current one.
- Be present. Keep your focus on the task at hand. Do not give in to the urge to look at emails, read texts, or other distractions until you are done with the task.
- Disconnect from technology. Only use the technology necessary to complete the task at hand. Turn everything else off until you are finished.
- Reduce interruption as much as possible. Have a time scheduled to do work, and let everyone know not to bother you during this time. Shut your office or room door to help reduce people coming in.
Has Your Opinion on Multitasking and Switch-tasking Changed?
Again, being able to multitask has been trotted around as an advantage. But why? Research shows that the work quality of those who multitask or switch-task is not as good as those who do not. So, has your opinion changed after reading this article? Mine certainly has. From here on out, I am going to focus on one task at a time. In doing so, I will have better quality work and also save valuable time! How about you?
Want to join me in being more conscious of not multitasking and switch-tasking? If you are a member of our private Facebook group, share your thoughts on this topic with us!