Multitasking – being bad at several things at the same time

As regular readers will know I am no fan of multi-tasking.  I think it is a word we created to make us feel good about being disorganised.  You can see previous posts on constant interruptions here.

But here is another reason that multitasking can be bad for your effectiveness.  I have been reading a book called “Yes, 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion” by Noel Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini.

It is a very accessible, 250 page, run through the research based findings from studies of persuasion.

One of the things that they discovered in the research, was that sleep deprivation or fatigue, which for those of us working in complex companies and travelling a lot is a real challenge in itself, but the second was that you can get a similar effect simply by generating a short distraction.

So for example, sales people who did something unexpected like quoting the price of a product in pennies, and then saying “it’s a bargain” were more persuasive. That slight distraction of “it’s in pennies” rather than the normally expected pricing, just knocks people off track a little bit and the persuasive statement that immediately follows is more likely to b accepted.

These were relatively small scale transactions, but one of the recommendations was that if you are involved in something that is fairly high stakes, if you are making a decision, or  trying to focus on something important, minimise multitasking.

This is also common sense.  When did you ever do your best work by not concentrating on it?

So again, multitasking, it is a nice word but it doesn’t work.

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