How many times have you heard someone brag about how he or she excels at multitasking? Perhaps you think that you’re the master of multitasking and who’s to argue when you can check your e-mails, respond to texts, fold the laundry, help the kids with homework, and prepare dinner all at once? While you feel like you only feel productive if you’re doing more than one thing at a time, you may not be as productive or efficient as you think. Although we live in a world that expects us to multitask, whether at work or at home, multitasking doesn’t really exist and can do more harm than good.
What’s Happening When You Multitask?
Multitasking is one of the skills that may set you apart (and sometimes ahead) of others, but before you keep doing more than one thing at a time, it’s time to find out what’s really going on in your head. Let’s say you have a tight deadline at work and the only way to get everything done by the end of the day is to do a couple of things at once, such as answering emails and talking with clients on the phone at the same time. The truth is, you’re not actually answering your emails and talking at the same time. Your brain is quite impressive, quickly switching focus back and forth between the two tasks, but in the end (even if you finish the tasks), the quality may not be as good as it could be had you focused on one thing at time. Although there is a small percentage of individuals who can truly multitask, which means that the quality and efficiency of their tasks are affected, a majority of “everyday multitaskers” are really just making their lives busier and more stressful.
The Dangers of Multitasking
Not only can multitasking affect the quality of your work, but it can affect how you interact with others. Have you ever been accused of not “being present” or have your kids complained that it seems like you never have time for them? It may be time to slow it down and work on one task at a time. Rather than trying to get multiple things done at home, assign and share your tasks with others or encourage them to help you so that your family time encourages closeness rather than distance and failure to focus.
Another major risk associated with multitasking is dangerous driving. A multitasking driver, whose cognitive process is impaired, is the same as a distracted driver. How many times have you witnessed a fellow motorist talking on a cellphone while driving and perhaps engaging in additional activities such as eating a sandwich or even shaving? Each day in the U.S., over 8 people are killed and 1,161 are injured in car accidents involving a distracted driver and sadly, distracted driving accidents are one of the most preventable accidents on our roadways.
If you wouldn’t dream of breaking the rules of the roadway and engage in distracted behaviors, you should try to kick your multitasking habit at home and in the office.