When I answer emails while on a conference call while having lunch, I get more done in less time, right?
As soon as I move attention from the conference call to the email, I will miss something important. Or I will hear my name following a question – and I will have missed the question. All while consuming my food without noticing the tastes, flavors and eating way more than I need. (Side note: we eat more when we eat mindlessly without paying attention to our food).
When I am multitasking, I am not actually doing more than one thing at a time. I am diverting my attention between several tasks, therefore not fully focusing on anything, getting distracted from all, and needing more time to do everything.
According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”
Switching between several tasks wastes time and productivity, because our time and attention are used for the activity of switching gears. In addition, we don’t experience being fully “in the zone” and the amplified results it can bring.
A UCSF study found that multitasking negatively affects short-term, or “working,” memory, which is the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for a period of time. That, in turn, affects our creativity.
Switching from task to task while multitasking does not save time. It actually takes more time. In fact, it reduces productivity by as much as 40% and increases the likelihood of errors.
If you are multitasking between two different things, it will take more time to accomplish both than if you did them one at a time.
All in all, multitasking is a bad idea… unless you are interested in increasing your errors and reducing productivity and creative thinking.