Following on from last week’s blog post about Pomodoro Technique, in which focus is all-important, it seemed like an interesting idea to take a look at multitasking, and asking the question – why is it such a bad idea? In the ’80s and ’90s, the ability to multitask was seen as a huge benefit – why only do one thing when you can do two or three?
Of course, in today’s technology-rich world, multi-tasking is more or less requisite. We play on our phones while we do…well, pretty much anything. A virtual world of social media, SaaS subscriptions, and online shopping all make demands on our time, and it is becoming increasingly apparent it is having a detrimental effect on all of us.
Splitting your focus can cause problems in a number of ways, from the quality of your work product, to how productive your business is, to your quality of life overall.
Multitaskers make mistakes
It’s obvious really; when your focus is split between several different tasks, you are more likely to make a mistake! The mistakes that you make are likely to be ones of accuracy, which will simply mean you will have to spend all the time you think you saved in checking over your work and amending it!
Multitaskers are more stressed
A study from the University of California, Irvine discovered that having one’s focus divided, and trying to compete lots of small tasks at once raises the heart rate – it actually produces stress (which probably isn’t a surprise to anyone who has tried to multitask).
Of course, it’s not just the physical act of multitasking that stresses us out – it is also the consequences of multitasking itself. The fact that you have to go back and amend your work can make for a lot of stress, particularly when time is of the essence.
Multitaskers are less effective
I think most people who have ever been on the business end of a work product from someone who was multi-tasking when they did it would attest to the fact that the work quality is significantly worse than if it had been done by someone who was focussed!
Multitaskers are slower
Most people multitask because they feel that it will save them time, but this is not the case. When you give the job the time and focus it needs, the process will usually speed up and become more efficient. A University of Utah study from 2008 found that people who used their mobile phones to chat while driving took longer to arrive at their destinations. Work smarter, not harder!
Multitaskers make bad decisions
Decision fatigue is the result of making a number of decisions in a row. The more decisions you make, the worse you become at it. This can lead to some very bad choices – not great when your business is at stake!
Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says:
“Do I answer this text message or ignore it? How do I respond to this? How do I file this email? Do I continue what I’m working on now or take a break? It turns out that decision-making is also very hard on your neural resources and that little decisions appear to take up as much energy as big ones. One of the first things we lose is impulse control. This rapidly spirals into a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.”
So…what’s the solution?
If I had a definitive answer to this question I’d be a millionaire! There is no one easy solution, but one thing’s for certain – trying to do everything at once is not only a bad idea, it will actively impede you in almost every way possible.
Pomodoro technique is one way of trying to ensure that, in a world where your attention is being demanded on all sides, you are able to keep your focus in one place at once. Over the next weeks, we’ll be looking at other ways that you can cope with all the demands of running your own business while remaining productive.