Monday, January 13, 2014

Multitasking

I have always heard it said that women are better at multitasking than men. And I certainly remember when my children were babies and toddlers, constantly having to juggle two or more things at the same time. Holding the baby with bottle balanced in his mouth, in one arm, while talking on the phone tucked under my chin and stirring the pot of stew on the stove. It wasn't that I was good at it, I had to do it. Ok, I didn't have to do it, I could have left the baby screaming in his crib, the phone ringing off the hook and the stew burning on the stove, while I sat and filed my nails. I could have, but I didn't because my nerves would not have been able to stand it.

Perhaps that is the difference. Men are better at ignoring, or blocking out what they don't want to pay attention to. Women are not so good at that. At least, I am not.

For years now, I have worked in an environment that requires me to juggle at best, two separate projects, today I was working on three simultaneously. According to my best friend Google:

si·mul·ta·ne·ous·ly
adverb
at the same time.

Of course I wasn't doing that, but what I was doing was switching frequently from one to the other, and it was exhausting. I had to keep reminding myself which environment / issue I was dealing with, where I was at in the testing and what my next step should be. I always thought I was good at multitasking, and that it was a gift. So I did some research and decided I am not doing that any more. No wonder I am shattered at the end of the day.  

Here is some of what I turned up in just a few minutes of searching (what did we do before the internet?)

Links to research reports:


To summarize:

  • For students, an increase in multitasking predicted poorer academic results.
  • Multitaskers took longer to complete tasks and produced more errors.
  • People had more difficulty retaining new information while multitasking.
  • When tasks involved making selections or producing actions, even very simple tasks performed concurrently were impaired.
  • Multitaskers lost a significant amount of time switching back and forth between tasks, reducing  their productivity up to 40%.
  • Habitual multitaskers were less effective than non-multitaskers even when doing one task at any given time because their ability to focus was impaired.
And finally - I believe - multitaskers are far more stressed at the end of the day!