Another Assault On Multitasking

If you have ever been in one of our training programs you know that we are ardent dissenters on the net value of multitasking. In our opinion it only works when there is a singular purpose involved (like safely driving a car) or when the two tasks involved are of a different nature-one being physical and the other mental. Even then, the benefit is suspect.

Well, we have found another source that affirms our suspicions. In his HBR Blog, Peter Bregman highlights research that shows the downsides of multitasking based on research. Based on some of the research he found that:

  • People distracted by incoming calls and e mails saw a drop in their IQ of 10 points. That's a larger effect than losing a night's sleep. Twice the impact of smoking marijuana!
  • Productivity actually goes down by as much as 40%. The loss comes in what we actually do when multitasking, which is "quick switch tasking." And we lose precious time switching back and forth from one task to another.
  • The more you multitask, the worse you actually are at it. You reach a point where you are simply switching-and getting very little work done.

What I really enjoyed was his sharing of the results of going one week without multitasking. It was insightful to say the least. But you'll have to read his blog to get the full effect of his experience. This guy is truly the ringmaster of his circus-and knows that the ringmaster can not be in multiple rings at once and expect to get a standing ovation.