The Negative Effects of Multitasking Revisited

I feel compelled to revisit this topic because so many people I encounter either don’t believe the research or more likely, are unwilling to give up their multitasking habits.

Please read my previous post on the subject to get my take on the subject.

The New York Times had a great series on the subject called “Your Brain on Computers” and McKinsey and Company had a great article called “Recovering from Information Overload” where they detailed the “perils of multitasking” and concluded “always-on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity, and making us unhappy.”

Need further evidence that multitasking us sub-optimal?  Researchers at Stanford University concluded multitasking kills attention span, focus and memory.  Their research challanges today’s executives by stating “Think you can talk on the phone, send an instant message and read your e-mail all at once? Stanford researchers say even trying may impair your cognitive control. Serious stuff.

The bottom line is it is fine to watch TV and surf the web on your tablet at the same time because it really doesn’t matter if you are less productive in this non-thinking entertainment mode.  But if you are at work and need to be on top of your game, you should only do one thing at a time.

This means close all windows except he one you are working on and turn off all your beeps, buzzers, toast, etc. that notify you of a new email, text, call etc. and block out uninterrupted chunks of time to focus on specific tasks.  This is why I schedule several 30 blocks of time to process email each day.  I get more done in less time with higher quality.

“Addressing information overload takes enormous self-discipline,” the McKinsey article reads.

I recommend all executives 1) Focus (do one thing at a time), Filter (delegate so that you don’t take on too many tasks or too much information) and Forget (read, walk the halls, take breaks, clear your head) to maximize productivity.

About Michael Keithley

One Response to The Negative Effects of Multitasking Revisited

  1. Tracy Beam says:

    Thanks for revisiting. Excellent reminder. I will use as a safety moment at next IT leadership meeting.

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