The Multitasking Myth – or “How to speed up my Meetings by 30%”
The question about whether multitasking is a good thing has been around for a while. This week I came across a piece of research that seems to provide the answer once and for all: multitasking is a myth.
The research was done back in 2009 at Stanford, and to my knowledge has not been superseded. If you would like to delve more deeply you can find it here.
This research looked at people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information and concluded that they do not pay attention, nor do they control their memory, nor do they switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.
The research concluded that so-called multitaskers are “suckers for irrelevancy” and “everything distracts them.”
The big point of this study is that they tested experienced multitaskers (those who regularly do a lot of media multitasking) and those who don’t. And it is exactly these people who think they are good at it that turn out to be the worse performers.
But some people get hooked on it and this addiction is sometimes called hyper-attention. When people who are used to this way of working sit down to work without distractions, they often feel bored – they dread slow e-mail days – and they feel less satisfied and less productive, even though the reverse is true.
It is of course well known that we can do more than one thing at a time – drive and listen to the radio for example, or use a knife and fork at the same time. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that you can only do this when the tasks do NOT require active (cognitive) thinking – you can only do this for routine tasks when you are on autopilot.
And personally I’m not having anyone in my meetings who is on autopilot, let alone someone slowing us all down by thinking they can multitask.
- Contact Global Integration to find out more about how we can improve personal and team efficiency.
- Sign up to our RSS feed (on the radar sign above on most devices) and to get our blog posts emailed to you once a week. Early next year you’ll see a lot about meetings. (You heard it here first!)
- Listen to our podcast: Dismal Meetings, Surprisingly Useful Coffee Breaks
- See Kevan Halls useful book, Speed Lead, which offers some extremely useful hints and tips on both meetings and offers other, efficiency improving, mythbusters
- Do you agree with John? Disagree? Have your say – we’d love to know your thoughts!