February 25 2022
Is multitasking real?
Multitasking is the ability to perform several tasks simultaneously. In theory, it is highly valued by employers. Stereotypically it is perceived as something women excel at. What is the truth? Is multitasking real? And if so, how does it affects us?
A good place to start is to note that the very term ‘multitasking’ originated from… computer science. It is machines that can do many things at once, at almost the same time, and with the same level of precision. So can humans beat the technology in this matter? And finally, should we even try to compare ourselves to machines?
Can you really focus on several things at the same time?
Sure, if we think about watching TV and eating popcorn at the same time, or taking a walk while listening to a podcast, then yes – multitasking seems easy and readily available. Apparently, we multitask effortlessly every day.
It is worth noting though, that in such cases usually one of the activities does not require much focus or attention, and the other engages our mind to a much greater extent. Snacking, doing the dishes, walking or jogging are not things that would interrupt our thinking, listening or watching.
The problem makes itself apparent when we try doing two things which both require our attention. Have you ever tried writing a text, while following the dialogues in your favorite TV series? Perhaps you were trying to reply to an e-mail while listening to your colleague telling you about their holiday trip? If you have, then you know perfectly what it’s all about.
Read also: “Six methods to increase productivity”
Why is it so important to us?
It is hardly surprising that more and more people would like to have a skill to do many different things in the same time. The market and our employers expect that from us. The more tasks you can tick off the TO DO list quickly, the better.
Multitasking isn’t real
Multitasking is often wrongly associated with increased efficiency of execution of tasks, but it has hardly anything to do with it.
Dave Crenshaw, the author of “The Myth of Multitasking,” points out that our multitasking is the ability to quickly jump from one task to another, rather than actually do several things at once with the same level of attention.
Prolonged dispersed activity may cause:
- Fatigue. When we do several things at once, and also expose ourselves to various stimuli (sounds, talks, distractors), we are going to get fatigued much faster than if we just followed the TO DO list step by step.
- Making mistakes. Lack of focus, being distracted and jumping from one task to another may result in making mistakes. And we all want to avoid those!
- Stress. Many tasks that all have to be done ASAP? Difficulty in setting priorities? Overtime? Too many duties? This is where multitasking can easily lead us. Too many things to do, delays and fatigue can show themselves as prolonged stress, which is very unhealthy for both our bodies and minds.
You can also be interested in: Six necessary conditions for an effective business meeting
Do you want to find out how many things you can actually do in one day? Give up multitasking, at least for a week. Write down how much time each task takes if you give it your undivided attention.
It can turn out that this style of work is more productive than the one you were used to. And if you come to conclusion that you’ve had too much on your plate, its a perfect time to start delegating your duties!
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