November 6, 2011 2 Comments
In today’s fast paced world where we have so many input streams coming at us that we tend to try to multitask to get more done. This is not actually accurate because it is based on the assumption that human beings are capable of doing two cognitive tasks at the same time. We’re not. Instead, we learn to move rapidly between tasks – context switching. When we’re doing one, we’re actually not even aware of the other.
If you’re in a meeting, for example, and you take a quick peek at your smartphone to check your email, for a brief moment you’re missing what’s happening in the meeting as long as you’re checking your email. But actually more important, you’re incurring something called “switching time.” That’s the time it takes to shift from one cognitive activity to another.
On average, according to University of Michigan researcher David Meyer’s research, switching time increases the amount of time it takes to finish the primary task you were working on by an average of 25 percent. In short, juggling activities is incredibly inefficient.
Difficult as it is to focus in the face of the endless distractions we all now face, it’s far and away the most effective way to get work done. That is why it is so important to schedule time to do your email and do it in a focused block of time instead of checking email throughout the day.
The worst thing you can do as a boss is to insist that your people constantly check their email.
You are effectively incurring a 25% productivity tax on your employees by encouraging this behavior.