Never before has our attention been pulled in so many different directions: mobile phones, land lines, the Internet, social media and its many allures all constantly bombard us with information of all types. What’s more, demands for increased productivity mean that we are being pushed to deliver increasingly more in increasingly less time.
Does living in a high-pressure environment in which we’re constantly “on” mean that our brains have become even sharper in the digital age? The short answer is no. According to Christine Rosen – senior editor of The New Atlantis – it’s a myth that multitasking actually increases efficiency.
Multitasking: The Productivity Trap
Whether you’re answering the phone while composing an e-mail, surfing the web while attending an online meeting, driving a car while chatting on your mobile, or networking while watching TV, multitasking is a reflection of our fragmented, dynamic, consumption-driven and hyper-connected reality.
Multitasking can have negative consequences, including:
1. Loss of concentration: When employees endlessly move from one task to another, they’re constantly shifting their attention and don’t spend time analyzing the subject like they should. Therefore, instead of saving time, multitaskers end up having to double their efforts, spending more time in the long run on tasks that they initially performing half way.
2. Superficial information: When employees organize their work into a multitude of small, short tasks, essentially filling in the dots, they’re engaging in the now-common practice of continually jumping from one thing to the next. The result is that their knowledge is only superficial, and they make little effort to analyze or comprehend the subject matter at hand.
3. Burnout: It’s difficult to deal with several activities at once and not end up overwhelmed. Not only are we more likely to make mistakes, but we also reach a natural point of saturation much quicker.
4. Decreased intellectual ability: Some studies even argue that multitasking actually lowers your IQ. According to a study conducted by the University of London, “constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of 10 points on an IQ test.”
How to Avoid a Multitasking Mess
Try disconnecting the tethers that bind you to your mobile phone, your desk phone and everything else clamoring for your simultaneous attention. Take time to focus on a well-defined task and to bring it to completion.
Addicted to social networks or your inbox? If you can’t control your temptation by sheer will power, you can use software created to limit access to certain sites or applications over a defined period of time such as Selfcontrol app.
Know how to say no
Know how to prioritize tasks according to their importance. Don’t hesitate to tell someone who wants to give you a last-minute assignment that you’ll address it once you’ve finished everything else.
“Don’t multitask; your brain will thank you,” advises journalist Issie Lapowsky.
Your productivity will also thank you, according to Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, because, “giving your full attention to what you are doing will help you do it better, with more creativity and fewer mistakes or missed connections.”
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