In the past we’ve blogged on multi-tasking, the ability to do a number of tasks at the same time. I’ve been quite proud of myself and truly believed that I’d become more efficient now that I’ve taken multi-tasking to a new level (being a mom). Yes, of course there are times when this is true (being able to cook dinner, check emails and entertain a child with a few pots and pans from the kitchen cupboard at around 5pm – terror hour in most homes with small kids). But, and here is where men can breathe a sigh of relief – I’m seeing more and more articles recently on the downfalls of mulit-tasking, how it actually hinders our productivity…
According to an article I read on Mashable “Multitasking not only hinders productivity but it’s actually difficult to pull off. According to a March 30, 2011, article published in Psychology Today, multitasking (engaging in two tasks simultaneously) is only possible when two conditions are met: First, one of the tasks has to be so ingrained that no focus is necessary, and secondly, they involve different types of brain processing.”
I do believe that my generation believe that we are the kings and queens of multi-tasking (There’s also a blog post of ours titled ‘The multi-tasking generation from a little while back).
It’s been a part of our lives (and even more so of the generations after us) – when last did you see a school kid doing their homework in the quiet of their room, no music on, no tv in the background – negative. These days it’s more like earphones are on, blackberry messages coming in constantly, Facebook open, while researching online for a school project.
“Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.
You might think you’re different, that you’ve done it so much you’ve become good at it. Practice makes perfect and all that.
But you’d be wrong. Research shows that heavy multi-taskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multi-taskers. In other words, in contrast to almost everything else in your life, the more you multitask, the worse you are at it. Practice, in this case, works against you. ” (Taken from another great article on this subject in the Harvard Business review)
Recent advice that I received was to cut my day into 20 minute segments. Apparently 20 minutes is the average amount of time that we can focus on something before we start getting distracted. Advice from the articles I’ve been reading is to switch off the noise -ignore the phone, don’t check emails, stay focused… (just for 20 minutes!)
It’s a work in progress, but I do believe it is helping… This blog post could normally start off been written first thing in the morning and still be unfinished by the end of the day, today it’s been written in one session. When I spend time with my daugther in the afternoons, I switch off my phone for 20 minutes so that I’m not tempted to check emails when the little red light on my blackberry starts beeping. It’s 20 minutes of focused time on her and a 20 minute break for me – after which she’s more than happy to keep herself occupied and I’m ready to face what needs to be done.
As I said, it’s a work in progress, I’m far from mastering this one.. It’s going to be interesting watching the younger generations hitting the workplaces and monitor their productivity, as well as how we all continue to manage our work life balance as the noises get louder and bigger…