Is multi-tasking a positive attribute? Should you boast about it in during an interview? Does it increase or decrease productivity?
This debate has been on for decades and the fact is that there are pros and cons to multitasking. Or is it OK to multitask in certain situations – like at home or classroom or sometimes at office?
Sure, you might be able to work on multiple tasks simultaneously and maybe even get it done, but what about the quality of work?
Let’s look at the pros and cons of multitasking;
Pros of multitasking
- It’s easy to multitask if you are doing simple chores like – cooking, watching TV and talking over the phone or checking your email, talking over the phone and listening to music. In such case, switching your mental focus from one task to another is easy and does not require much effort.
- Multitasking allows you to include different activities in your daily lives breaking the monotony.
- Moving back and forth between different projects prevents boredom, keeps you inspired and makes you more creative.
- Multitasking helps you learn how to deal with interruptions and distractions
- You develop the ability to cope even when there is chaos around you
- Even if the progress is minimal, you will manage to take more than one project or assignment to the next level, closer to your deadline.
Cons of multitasking
- Studies have shown that multitasking actually slows down progress, because the act of switching between two tasks takes a longer time mentally. Actually, when you begin working on a certain project/chore your brain decides how each thing is to be done. So, switching between tasks means closing one and opening another, which in turn means more time taken.
- When you multitask, you attention is divided between two tasks which means the quality of work suffers. When you focus on one task at a time, the quality of work is definitely much higher.
- Switching between two tasks also means, trying to remind yourself where you left off leading to waste of time. This might result in decrease in overall productivity.
- Multitasking might keep you busy, but at the end of the day, the question is how much have you accomplished. If it’s not much, your management might actually think that there is a drop in your efficiency level.
- Your brain, like any other muscle, can get taxed due to multitasking. Switching between tasks and making multiple decisions might tire your brain to an extent that you might end up being a poor or less-effective decision maker.
So, if you are updating your friend about the latest gossip in your office overphone, and at the same time ironing your clothes, it’s OK. However, if you are talking to your insurance agent about a policy and at the same time helping your kid solve a math problem, it could be very distracting, especially if all of you start quoting numbers!
Learn to prioritize
Having spoken about the pros and cons of multitasking, the key here is to learn to prioritize. Before you start multitasking, make a list of projects which are of high importance. As these tasks should be of high quality, make sure you give it all your attention and finish them in one or two sittings. And then there are the other tasks which can be completed in one sitting – do not waste time by going back and forth on them. Complete them in one sitting.
The projects/chore that you should take up for multitasking should be those which are of less importance and don’t need a lot of attention.
The list on pros and cons is by no means complete, and the cons seem to be weighing more heavily than the pros. At this point, it would be safe to say that people with attention issues should focus on just one task at a time, at least until they learn to cope with distractions.
Photograph via sxc.hu
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