Remember when being able to put “skilled multi-tasker” on your resume was a good thing? Guess what? Science has finally proven what most of us have known (or at least suspected) for a while now. Multi-tasking kills your ability to actually get anything done!
Okay, granted, that’s not entirely true. I can reset a router while talking on the phone and pulling a mouse on a string for Office Cat. No problem. What I can’t do is write this blog post while talking on the phone, checking my email, eating Chex Mix, talking to the guy next door and keeping an eye on your error messages. Guess what’s not going to get done?
Right. Writing this blog.
When you’re doing multiple things at once, you’re not really paying attention to any of them. When you’re doing four things, each of those things only gets a quarter of your attention. Do you really think your boss wants a quarter of your attention to be on the presentation they have to give tomorrow?
I don’t think so. If they did, there’d be a lot more World of Warcraft allowed in the workplace.
Jobs done in tangent with other jobs intrinsically take longer, because they don’t have your complete attention. That means that while it might have taken you five minutes to check your email at the beginning of the day, it’s going to take you the better part of 20 while you’re on the phone. And as mentinged in the article link above, it can take 15 minutes or longer to get back on-task after wandering off to answer one little email!
Multi-tasking is taking up time that you don’t have.
The moral of this story? If you really want to maximize productivity, forget everything you ever learned about multi-tasking. Go back to the good old days of doing one thing at a time unless you absolutely, positively have no other choice. You’ll be impressed with what it does for your mental health, your team will be impressed by what it does for the quality of your work. It’s a win/win situation all the way around.
Are you a chronic multi-tasker? What’s your take on the idea that continued multi-tasking can actually deteriorate your ability to concentrate on one thing at a time?