What do you think of when you hear the word multitasking? I picture someone sitting at a desk, frantically typing away, phone to one ear, with a giant coffee nearby and sweating like they have completed a spin class.
Multitasking is probably a skill you listed on your resume. But is the ability to multitask really important and is it advantageous? I for a long time would have answered ‘yes’ to this question, but now I am not so sure.
Efficiency and productivity have always been important, so it is natural to come to the conclusion that multitasking is a desirable skill for those who want to get more done in less time. But are we really being more efficient or are we in fact wasting time and brain power by trying to do multiple things at once? Are we simply adding more half finished jobs to our to-do list?
Computers are great at multitasking; they are designed to perform multiple processes like run a virus scan while we type a word document or surf the web. Most computers today have more than one CPU or brain to achieve this. I am also sure that you have noticed your computer slowing down and maybe even crashing when too many applications are running out once. We humans on the other hand only have one brain making it harder to perform multiple tasks.
There are times when humans too can multitask. We can send a friend a text message while walking down the street, or while having a bite to eat, but sending a text while driving is not a good idea and can result in a accident,(not to mention is illegal) and I am sure you have accidentally sent an sms or email to the wrong person. I’ve done that and it can be quite embarrassing. I am not totally against the idea – it is perfectly fine to multitask the small menial tasks, where outcomes are not always as important.
However, when it comes to big jobs, the important stuff – that major presentation or the report you’re working on – multitasking can become a distraction. An email, text message or a phone call can quickly suck you into a black hole taking with it your train of thought, from which it can take minutes and maybe hours to recover and refocus. A study done in 2005 found that workers distracted by phone calls and emails suffer a fall in IQ more than double that found in marijuana smokers.
So there it is, multitasking can be okay for the little things, but if something is really important and you want the job done properly, it must be given your 100% focus and attention.