Personal development

Multitasking- a threat or an opportunity?

  1. Introduction
  2. What is multitasking?
  3. What are the threats of multitasking
  4. Is it also an opportunity?
  5. Conclusion

Introduction

I have been searching for work for a while now, and I have realized this one expectation that many recruiters have, they want someone who is effective at multitasking. I have lived in a belief that multitasking is a myth and wrote on LinkedIn, that I feel like multitasking isn’t a good expectation to have. Many people agreed with me, yet many didn’t and this is why I decided to dive deeper into the whole multitasking world. What is multitasking? Is multitasking a threat or an opportunity?

What is multitasking?

Multitasking when speaking about humans, is when we do many things at the same time. This could be cooking, trying to take care of your kids and answering an email or what ever your life forces you to do.

What are the threats of multitasking?

Despite being well meaning, multiple studies have noted that multitasking can hinder ones productivity and isn’t actually as effective as expected. Some studies like 2009 Standford Univeristy study by Clifford Nass shows that multitaskers were actually less organized. It was harder for them to see the crucial details compared to non crucial ones. Another study (Bryan College) found that peoples productivity suffered from trying to multitask costing up to $450 million per year.

The issue with the concept of multitasking, is that people believe that they are actually doing more than one task at the same time, which isn’t possible. The brain needs to switch from task to task which requires quite a lot of effort. Mostly this is an issue if you are working on something hard. Since as we know certain things we can do at the same time, talk and walk, breath and move our hands etc.

The benefit or negative impact that multitasking has on productivity is subjective and depended on the task at hand

Rachel Gauthier

The issue comes when we try to force our brain to do many difficult things at once. “Multitasking can hurt efficiency for couple reasons: It takes time to switch between gears, and the process of switching ‘working sets’ of information can lead to errors and mistakes. Being efficient at multitasking really means trying to make those costs as small as possible”. Bob Schafer, VP of research at Lumosity states.

Bryan Collage study also has noticed millennials changing platform to platform up to 27 times per hour. There has been proof of even IQ lessening by 15 points during cognitive tasks and even emotional intelligence and brain density suffering. This for me is at least not surprising. I recognize the need to check one thing then think of another and so on.

Multitasking at a café
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash and Quote from Times article

Now some argued in my comment section on LinkedIn that there is no such things as concentrating on one thing 100% and that certain jobs like working at a café or bar could require you to multitask. And this is true, however, I would also argue that is the more different task one person has to keep track of at once the more mistakes there will be. For example: a barista has to make a cocktail for 10 people they would have way more risks in making a mistake than if they only have to serve 3 people. Also making 10 cocktails that are all the same will be way easier than to to make 10 different ones. On top of all this if you know the cocktails well its easier to do it as if automatically, rather than something you have never done before. Same thing in a café while making lattes. Or being a baker and waiting for the batter to rise while you decorate the cake. There is a reason why we have alarms and reminders set. So we actually remember to do things we are “doing” at the same time.

The neuroscience has proven over and over again that we thrive of doing one thing at a time. Only 2.5% of people can multitask effectively. Not only is multitasking mentally exhausting it could be potentially life threatening (e.g. texting and driving). While multitasking we lose out attentiveness, we hinder our learning and we lose our mindfulness.

Remember this the next time you’re tackling two tough tasks simultaneously.

 CYNTHIA KUBU AND ANDRE MACHADO 

Is multitasking all bad?

This is a matter of perception. What do we count as multitasking? For example is taking notes and listening to a lecture a task or two? We can apparently form tasks better if we thing we are multitasking, because we make more effort to not make mistakes. Those who see taking notes and listening as one easy task, don’t do as well on it.

While this idea doesn’t take away the countless research done before on the negative effects of multitasking (the actual one where we try to do too many difficult tasks at once) it does show that the idea of multitasking can be motivating. And I actually have seen this in myself too. I love the idea of being efficient and for someone reason we live in a society that has romanticized multitasking.

In conclusion

So? Multitasking- a threat or an opportunity?

Unless a task is automatic, like breathing and driving a car or walking and talking, it most likely will cost us in our productivity if we try to force it to work with other tasks. This is why at least for me, if I drive somewhere unknown and I need to see where to make a left turn, I will stop talking (but not breathing). If someone asks me to write an essay and give a speech at the same time, I won’t be able to do it.

I will however be able to make meeting notes while listening to the meeting. I will be able to write myself a reminder to do some other task after I’ve completed the one at hand. I’ll be able to answer a question while doing something …kinda, technically I will have to stop the task at hand and answer the question and get back to it. (See, multitasking seems to be a myth)

I would argue that word multitasking is just wrong for what we try to explain with it. We need to come up with another word to explain that we can do many things intertwined with each other, and the more they are similar to one another the better.

Recruiters, I hope that by multitasking you mean the capacity to write a post-it note for a task that you need to do right after you written an email to someone. Because in that case, I also am great at multitasking! It better not be the idea that someone can write two emails and have a phone call at the same time. Cos then, sorry but our paths don’t cross, and honestly that’s sad cos I do love working hard and I would be a great addition to your team.

You do you boo

If you think you can multitask and you honestly feel you need to in order to be happy, successful, etc. Be my guest, and if you actually are a great multitasker, I am just a little bit envious of you. But if everyone who reads this says they are… then I’ll call bs, cos 2.5% of the population isn’t much…

As always thanks for reading! Hope you liked this post. It was slightly different than what I usually write. Don’t hesitate to comment!

Here is a link to a post about things you should stop right now….multitasking should be on the list 😉

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