I read a post by Jay the other day about multitasking, or rather the myth of multitasking. Without going into the technical details of how computers (appear!) to multitask with humans it doesn’t work. People boast about it because it makes them seem great, and people write it on their CV because they think (and they may well be right) that it is what employers want to read.
In actual fact people don’t multitask very well, certainly not in creative or development environments. Focusing on one thing at a time is a far more effective way of achieving objectives and maintaining quality. If you really are that busy that you feel the need to multitask then in actual fact what you probably need is to outsource, leaving you to focus on single important tasks at a time.
People often get backed into a corner by lack of planning, hence they end up multi-tasking. How otfen have you left something to the last minute, only to find out that you then find something else that is also urgent?
Sometimes I find myself multitasking without even knowing it. Multitasking doesn’t have to mean working on two projects at once, it can be as simple as reading the email that just came in, or answering an MSN message.
Jay sites a study by Eben Pagan about how long it takes for your mind to adjust back to what you were doing (and become productive again) once you have been distracted. Apparently it is 10 minutes or so. This doesn’t sound a lot on the face of it, but if you are distracted 6 times in a day (and you probably get distracted a lot more than that) then that is already 1 hour. I’m sure you could find a better use for that hour, I certainly could!
Eben Pagan says that “multitasking lowers the IQ more than smoking pot”. While I would not condone smoking the weed as a viable alternative to multitasking he does have a point.
Sometimes it is worth remembering that email is not instant messenger. The email that just came in will still be there in half an hour, when you have finished the job you were doing, yet for some reason there can be an overwhelming compulsion to deal with it right away.
A good experiment is to close all distractions (email/MSN/twitter etc) while you are working. If you spend an hour focusing on what you should be doing instead of multitasking you will be surprised how much you get done.
There was a lot more to Jay’s post than just multitasking, but as is often the case I read a post and something jumps out to me over and above the rest.
Have a read for yourself and let me know, do you suffer from multitasking?