Does Multitasking Really Save Time?

Lord Chesterfield - timeMultitasking seems to be in the news a lot lately. The big questions is, does multitasking really save time?

What is your opinion from personal experience? I will let you know mine at the end.

Researching the subject online gave me some food for thought. It seems that multitasking can save time, but only when you are doing rote tasks that don’t require much brain power.

Here are some examples where multitasking works:

  • Walking and chewing gum
  • Folding laundry while talking on the phone
  • A clown riding a unicycle while juggling brightly colored balls

Multitasking does not work when you are combining tasks that require brain power. The reason for that is because your short-term memory can only store between 5 and 9 things at once and for some of us it might even be fewer. That means when you are trying to combine two dissimilar tasks that require your concentration that’s when multitasking is not saving you time. Your brain just can’t process the two simultaneously without messing up.

Those who claim they can watch TV and study at the same time, might think they are saving time, but ultimately they are losing out to the fact that when information does not make it into short-term memory, it can’t be transferred into long-term memory for later recall. You disrupt your short-term memory and will only partially remember the TV show and the studied material.

What most people consider multi-tasking is actual task switching and every time you switch back to the previous task you have to figure out again where you left off and you lose precious time.

However, what saves you the most time is when you are working in batches. That means stick with one kind of task like paying your bills or answering emails one after the other until done. You tend to get into the groove and it makes it easy to stay with the task until done. The remedy is to slow down and focus on each bite of food.

Reasons to Stop Multitasking Now

multitasking

  • Actually multi-tasking reduces your productivity by 40% or about as much as smoking a joint.
  • It also stresses you out as you are always on high alert which increases your heart rate and affects your health.
  • When you are busy doing two things at once, you are operating with tunnel vision. You often don’t see the obvious things right in front of you.
    Multi-tasking can also affect your relationships. “A study from the University of Essex showed that just having a cell phone nearby during a personal conversation – even if neither of you are using it – can cause friction and trust issues”. (http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20707868,00.html)
  • Overeating and weight gain are other possible side-effects of multi-tasking. When you are distracted during mealtime, you prevent your brain from fully processing what you’ve eaten and won’t feel how full you really are.
  • Those who drive and use the cell phone consider themselves excellent multi-taskers, but research found that is not the case. Those who don’t drive and use the cell phone frequently are actually the better multitaskers.
  • The recommendation to be efficient is to “Only Handling It Once”(O.H.I.O.) is not very practical when you are multi-tasking because you are going back forth between tasks. O.H.I.O. means if you start doing something, don’t stop until you’ve finished it.
  • Paying attention to your cell phone rather than your surroundings can also be dangerous to your life, regardless if you are walking or driving. People have died because they paid more attention to their cell phone than their surroundings.

Now, as promised my take on multi-tasking. When I was younger I truly believed in multi-tasking and I was actually quite good at it when it came to multi-tasking similar tasks, but never that good with dis-similar task. Now a days, I still totally agree with the above statement just even more so.


I would love to hear what you have to say about this subject.
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