In this day and age, being able to multitask is seen by many as a crucial requirement, especially in the fast paced world of business, where productivity is everything. But how productive is multitasking, and can it truly help you get everything done better and faster?
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Multitasking
There are, first of all, many perceived advantages to multitasking, especially when it comes to speeding up simple tasks:
When handling simple tasks one at a time, you can lose a considerable amount of time. Multitasking is a very good alternative for getting them done faster.
Even if you don’t make much progress, by multitasking, you can move several projects forward at the same time.
Multitasking will keep you active and help avoid mental stagnation – especially when it comes to long term projects.
You can reduce the effort required by working on the same project for hours on end.
Technology allows you to easily start and manage multiple tasks at the same time with minimal effort.
Finally, multitasking also helps you learn to cope with chaotic situations when you need to.
Now that we’ve seen the positive points, here are the negative ones:
Without a doubt, the main disadvantage of multitasking compared to mono-tasking is that it can diminish the quality of work, especially in the case of large, complicated projects.
Researchers have shown that, when shifting between tasks, it takes a considerable amount of time for the brain to adapt, since it needs to replace the rules of the previous task with those of the new one.
Multitasking can also be somewhat dangerous when, for instance, you’re trying to get something done while driving your car.
According to some studies, continually distracting yourself from one task and starting another can lead to slower responses, as well as issues such as loss of attention and memory.
Bringing the Two Together
Since there have been so many controversies and discussions about multitasking and whether or not it actually is productive, some have suggested the idea of bringing mono-tasking and multitasking together, arguing that the only difference between them is structural, and can be bridged through associative thinking.
The idea here is that you’re not actually doing many things at once. Instead, you’re attempting to complete similar mini-tasks belonging to different projects in the same general time period.
For example, if you have a couple of hours at your disposal to manage your itinerary for the rest of the week, it might also be a good time to write those emails and text messages to friends or coworkers letting them know when you’ll be free.
Of course, while there’s no reason to interrupt your scheduling session for a moment to type a few short text messages, trying to manage 3-4 difficult tasks at the same time may prove to be far more difficult, so you’ll need to assign them accordingly.
Multitasking can be very efficient if you have a good sense of timing – and if seemingly stressful and chaotic circumstances don’t bother you. However, you always need to know when to stop and take a deep breath, while keeping things into perspective and reorganizing all your projects so that they can fit your allocated time and your time management abilities.