Friday, April 20, 2007
The Truth About Multitasking
I live for multitasking. I would get nothing done without it. I watch TV while I'm writing, read a story in another window, keep a magazine propped to one side, and answer emails/the phone/the doorbell on the side. And according to a new study this is all going to lead to my ruin.
The New York Times reports on a new study that basically says multitasking actually makes you less efficient than if you concentrated on one thing at a time. I'm not entirely sure that's what it says, though. I was talking on the phone while reading the article. (Kidding!)
To some extent, this is common sense. It's long been known that talking on a cell phone while driving a car is exceedingly dangerous. Some studies say it's just as bad as driving drunk.
But the science of the phenomenon is intriguing. I feel more productive when doing multiple things at once, but maybe I'm not. The key, says the researcher, is that you lose time and focus when you switch between tasks. Try it for yourself. Type half of a sentence. Go check your email. Then come back and try to finish your thought. It's tough to get back in the groove of what you were doing.
The expert advice? Check email once an hour. And turn off outside distractions except, maybe, for soft background music.
As for me, I'm going to experiment with checking my email less frequently and see how that works for my concentration. An hour? No, but I am changing my "check for new messages" setting in Outlook from checking once every two minutes to every five.
So, multitaskers: Still think working on more than one thing at a time makes you more productive? Sound off!