Multitasking increases the chance of mistakes and leads to poor task performance

How can this be true? All job positions require it as a necessity to perform the duties. And all C.V’s cite being able to multitask as if it were second nature like breathing and talking. Yet true multitasking, as in being able to perform multiple tasks at once (or even just two) leads to all being performed poorly. Try driving and texting or even driving and talking– we all do it, but instead of the brain handling both with equal agility what actually happens is that the brain shifts its focus quickly between tasks, what looks like multitasking is just the brain performing two tasks separately in quick succession. This switching leads to a diminished focus on both tasks and ends up using more time to complete both tasks.

Test your Multitasking Skills

Psychology Today has a neat test to show that we are better at performing one task to its completion before another task is attempted.

Draw two lines and on one write the sentence ‘I am a great multitasker’ and then on the other line write the numbers from 1 to 20. Time how long it took to complete the task.
Now do it again but fill in the lines at the same time so line one begins with ‘I’ and line two is ‘1’ back to line one with ‘a’ and then line two with ‘2’ and so on. Time the process again and compare.  The time taken on the second ‘multitasking ‘attempt will have taken you much longer and may well have caused some confusion, or at least some hesitating and double checking.

So the conclusion is that effective ‘multitasking’ should then be the ability to tackle multiple tasks singularly completing each individual task before moving to the next.  If you observe high performers it will be apparent that they don’t waste time multitasking, they are highly focussed on one task, complete it and swiftly move on maintaining their focus.

How do you become a high performer? Practice prioritising tasks (important is often different from urgent) keeping your focus on singular tasks by not getting distracted and moving on to the next task. You will also find that you are less mentally exhausted, calmer and will be more effective as a result.

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