More Evidence that Multitasking Sucks


In this day of multiple screens and texting-while-you’re-on-a-conference-call-and-emailing-at-the-same-time — some folks refuse to see the ability to “multi-task” as anything but a badge of honor.

I used to be extremely guilty of this, until my stress levels rose to the point at which I realized how wrong this attitude really is.

As Julie Morgenstern, author of the Time Management from the Inside Out, tells, “It has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks, so you lose time. It takes four times longer to recognize new things so you’re not saving time; multitasking actually costs time. You also lose time because you often make mistakes.”

As Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, tells, what we call multitasking is actually task-switching.  According to Winch, “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount,” he says.

Now comes some new research that finds our multi-tasking is actually causing seemingly small interruptions during our day — which actually may translate to hours of disruption each workday.

Check out this Fast Company post about new research by University of California-Irvine business professor Gloria Mark which finds that, on average, we are hit with 4 major interruptions per hour — each of which takes us as much as 23 minutes to “get back on track.”  44% of these interruptions are actually caused by our attempts to multitask — or, rather, we move on to new tasks, whether the previous task is finished or not.

Bottom line: If you think you’re special because of your ability to multi-task, you’re on the wrong track.

Focus your day.  Focus on three to four priorities each day. Batch your emails to only check your inbox three or four times per day. Don’t check your phone while you’re focused on a priority to-do.

Remember, if you think you’re multi-tasking, what you’re really doing is multi-interrupting your day.

And your productivity could be dipping, while your anxiety level is rising.


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