Multitasking, Advantage or Disadvantage?

by William Moraga, Project Manager at Kaizen Recruitment.

Multitasking is often perceived as a desirable skill. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’re trying to do three things at once, you’re often accomplishing very little.

A Biological Impossibility

If you think that you can get more done by juggling multiple tasks at the same time…try this simple exercise:  Try calling your co-worker while typing an e-mail and checking your data system….What did you experience?  Yes, exactly, you felt that you were being productive, but you’re probably not getting any of those tasks done efficiently.

This is simply body biology: we all have a limited amount of cognitive bandwidth — the number of thoughts and memories we can hold in our minds at any given time. Your ability to get things done depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time, whether it’s for five minutes or an hour.

More Errors and Less Creativity

When you multitask, you tend to make more mistakes (as you are not 100% focused on an specific task). When you toggle back and forth between tasks, the neural networks of your brain must backtrack to figure out where they left off and then reconfigure and this is where errors become likely. People are much more efficient if they monotask.

Trying to multitask also negative impacts creativity.  Innovative thinking arises when we allow our brains to follow a logical path of associated thoughts and ideas, and this is more likely when we can focus on a single mental route for an extended period.

How to Monotask

  • Remove temptation: Actively resist the urge to check unrelated social media while you are working on a task.
  • Work on just one screen: Put away your mobile phones and turn off your second monitor.
  • Move:If you find yourself losing focus – reading the same sentence over and over or if your mind continually wanders off topic – get up and briefly walk around
  • Work in intervals: Set a timer for five or 10 minutes and commit to focusing on your assignment for that amount of time. Then allow yourself a minute of distraction, as long as you get back on your task for another five or 10 minutes