Multitasking: Essential…or Not?

Are you a multi-tasker?

I am – and I can’t see myself being any other way as I enjoy the stimulation. But my partner is single-minded and highly focussed on one thing at a time, and this works for him.

I don’t think this is a gender thing – it is based on the way an individual’s mind works.

 

Multi-tasking is considered a positive attribute in the workplace. In fact, it is demanded of the modern office worker.

You will be interrupted every few minutes by new emails, phone calls, meetings, demands on your time. On top of this, you actually need to perform your job.

Many of my colleagues have two screens at their desk, so they can simultaneously monitor email and work.

If you are not a natural multi-tasker, how do you cope with all these demands on your attention?

 

A number of books extol the virtues of slowing down, of focussing on quality tasks instead of the constant stream of interruption.

Studies have shown that multi-tasking can be dangerous. If we can’t drive and speak on the phone, how can we email and do the same thing?

If we are constantly moving on from a task, how can we accomplish anything at all?

 

Should companies encourage multi-tasking or is there a different way?

 

An alternative would be to have focussed periods of time without interruption that would enable periods of constructive work.

 

Some suggestions would be:

          Only enable the email servers between 8 – 10am and 3-5pm so people have specific periods of time to respond to email

          Turn on the mobile phone jammer during specific periods so that people are not distracted

          Schedule meetings only in the mornings when people have the most energy

          Have focus rooms where people can go and not be disturbed. Ensure that people get access to these several times a week.

 

Even these simple ideas are blasphemous in today’s corporate society, but perhaps more “work” would get done this way?

 

This is a great article on multi-tasking that goes into greater detail on this topic:

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-myth-of-multitasking

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