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Are You a Chronic Multitasker?

by Cynthia Kay

I have always prided myself on being a great multi-tasker. I have been known to work on writing a script while listening to an employee tell me about a day out in the field. I have worked on invoices while listening to a webinar. I am writing this as I sit on an airplane traveling to a business meeting.

Most of us have been taught that it is important to get as much done as possible, to be efficient and the best way to accomplish that is to do several things at a time. In short, to multi-task.

I see it in my workplace. Employees who text, listen to the radio, work- all at the same time. I see it at business meetings where people sit glued to their devices while “listening” to a presentation. I admit I love my devices but lately I am not so sure that all this multi-tasking is actually helping us get more work done and the research seems to confirm this.

The topic is covered extensively in The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The authors say that, “multitasking short circuits us.” They go on to cite research that says we lose 28% of our workday to multitasking ineffectiveness. They also list a series of issues with multitasking including errors, poorer decision making and greater stress. Research from Stanford University found that people who multi-task think that they are better performers but in reality “heavy multitaskers underperformed the light multitaskers.”

I decided to develop a little test of ten simple questions that I think might help you see if you are a chronic multi-tasker.

Have you ever hit send on an e-mail and been so busy doing several things that you forgot to attach a critical document?

Have you ever been on a conference call while doing other work only to discover that you have no idea what the other participants were talking about?

Have you scheduled a phone conference while driving just so you can make good use of the commute time?

Have you gotten so absorbed texting, emailing or calling while in an airport that you did not hear them call your flight?

Do you stop working every time an e-mail pops up and read it?

Do you constantly reach for your cell phone, iPad or other device?

Have you had a panic attack because you left your cell phone at home? In the car? Or someplace else and would be without it for a few hours?

Do you feel guilty just reading a newspaper or magazine on a break?

Do you sit at your desk and eat lunch while working?

Do you really believe that you are getting more done when you do two things at one time?

This is not a scientific test and I am certainly not a researcher. However, I have done all of these things at one point or another. Why do we multi-task? We believe that we are being more productive and because technology is so much a part of our lives. The research is clear now we need to start believing that doing more things at one time is not better. It’s just more.

Think about it.

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