The Advantages and Disadvantages of Multitasking

Is this common for you? (photo from http://ianc-blog.blogspot.com/2012/03/girls-are-like-movies.html)

In today’s busy world, who doesn’t multi task?

Who hasn’t, at any given time, tried to juggle lots of tasks, whether at home or at work? If yes, the you could be spreading yourself too thin, decreasing your output and using your time ineffectively.

Researchers Decio Coviello, Andrea Ichino and Nicola Persico studied a group of Italian judges who were randomly assigned cases and who had similar workloads, in terms of the quantity and type of cases they were assigned. Their findings? The judges who worked on fewer cases at a time tended to complete more cases per quarter and took less time, on average, to complete a case.

How multitasking can slow you down?

To some, multitasking allows us to do morework at a time and save more time.

Scientific studies reveal that whether we toggle between browsing the web and using other computer programs, talk on cell phones while driving, pilot jumbo jets or monitor air traffic, we are using our “executive control” processes. Switching from one activity to another or doing speed activity reduces our attention in a particular work – some times we take a glance in some thing and not going in depth which can make us  miss the important things. We are in hurry manner and don’t spend more time with a single thing. If we missed some important thing, we are in need to do the same work again, therefore spending more time in it. The human mind works best when focused on a single thread of thoughts. When we try to focus on multiple unrelated thoughts at the same time, it becomes difficult to regain focus and remember where we left off. Every time you switch from one task to another, you lose a little bit of time while your brain shifts gears, and all of this lost time adds up.

Is this common for you? (photo from http://ianc-blog.blogspot.com/2012/03/girls-are-like-movies.html)

Here are other disadvantages of multitasking:

Attention and memory loss. People who frequently juggle various types of electronic communications and media have trouble focusing their attention, take longer to switch between tasks, and don’t perform as well on memory tests as those who don’t, according to a study by Professor Clifford Nass that was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Poor cognitive performance. Zheng Wang, a professor at Ohio State University, recently released a study showing that multitasking made students feel more productive, while actually reducing their ability to perform well on cognitive tasks such as studying.

Multitasking may work for some, as it can increase productivity to some extent, wherein juggling several tasks can result to mental pressure and sense of urgency. However, this pressure is a form of stress and will invoke the physiological stress response. As such, frequent multitasking can become a form of chronic stress that will, over time, promote physical breakdown of your body and compromise your health.

Multitasking, though, is unavoidable, but  there are some things you can do to avoid having to multitask  all the time:

  • Prioritize. Prepare a task list for the day and prioritize the tasks by importance in relation to your goals and values each morning. Focus on the most important ones first and leave the less important tasks for another day if you run out of time for them.
  • Start early. Get to work on your most important tasks early in the day so that you don’t run out of time.
  • Limit distractions. If you’re working on a computer, close down all windows that aren’t necessary for the task at hand, especially things like email, Twitter, Facebook, email, etc.
  • Silence your phone. If possible, shut off your cell phone for a while to avoid unnecessary interruption.
  • Control your workplace. Work in an environment that is conducive to focus. If necessary, isolate yourself from people who might unnecessarily interrupt or distract you.

Web References:

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2001/08/multitasking.aspx

http://expertscolumn.com/content/disadvantages-multitasking

http://sloanreview.mit.edu/improvisations/2010/12/15/how-multitasking-at-work-can-slow-you-down/

http://advancedlifeskills.com/blog/why-multitasking-is-more-than-just-inefficient/

http://careeradvancementblog.com/disadvantages-multitasking

http://ph.she.yahoo.com/good-multitasking-doubtful-according-study-174208405.html