Multitask or not?2017-11-01T14:43:33+00:00

WELLBEING ASSESSMENT

RESOURCE TOOLKIT

WELLBEING ASSESSMENT

RESOURCE TOOLKIT

WORK LIFE BALANCE

WORK LIFE BALANCE

PRODUCTIVITY

Multi-tasking feels good but reduces productivity

There is a strong body of research evidence to show that we are not good at multi-tasking. In fact, studies have shown that when we think we are multi-tasking, what we are in fact doing is splitting our attention. This divided attention means we are not concentrating on a task, which also means it will take us longer. A large study looking at email interruptions found it took an average of 64 seconds for someone to refocus on what they were doing pre-interruption. Multiply 64 seconds by 5, 10, or more interruptions in a day, and that’s a large chunk of time that’s not effective.

Why do we continue to try to multi-task, when we know it’s inefficient? A recent study from Ohio State University, published in the Journal of Communication, found that students who were multi-tasking experienced emotional satisfaction (fun/entertainment/relaxing), which then meant they were more likely to multi-task the next time they were doing something that was intellectually challenging. Interestingly, the students were also more likely to multi-task when they needed to study (a cognitive demand). Most of us will recognise this as an urge to procrastinate when we need to concentrate!

So, how to beat this pattern? Try turning off electronic interruptions, plan blocks of time for focused work where you remove yourself from multi-tasking temptations, and find other ways of making yourself feel good, perhaps by scheduling a reward once you have completed a task.

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