There was a time when noting “multitasker” on a resume was considered a desirable trait to highlight. Now, some employment experts warn against hiring a person who boasts of their multitasking skills. What happened to change the tide?
Studies in recent years, where actual brain activity was recorded, have concluded that trying to focus on more than one activity at a time, reduces productivity by as much as 40% . Ouch. It would seem that we weaken our ability to block out distractions when we switch our focus from one activity to another, repeatedly; resulting in a greater amount of time spent completing the tasks. And all along, I thought I was saving time.
Millennials who cut their teeth on computer-aided everything seem to have a rather impressive grasp on multitasking. It’s nothing for said generation to pay bills via a mobile app and text mom about Sunday lunch plans all while winning at the newest video strategy game. Oh, and answer an ad on Craigslist at the same time. But don’t expect them to remember to take out the trash on Tuesday night. While the techiest amongst us appear to take multitasking in stride, research continues to warn we aren’t gaining as much from our multitasking as we think.
Many of us routinely combine making dinner with doing laundry, washing dishes, and emptying the trash. Personally, I think it’s cool to see how much I can accomplish while the oven or microwave timer ticks away two minutes – or even 45 seconds. I wouldn’t dream of simply watching the microwave turntable make its rounds when I could put away the silverware and plates – maybe the glasses too – from the dishwasher before the buzzer rings.
Checking your email while watching the game? Not a major deal—most people can handle this type of multitasking. If you miss the play of the night, chances are you can hit rewind and recapture the moment. Reviewing spelling words with Bobby while doing the dishes, sweeping the garage or washing the car? Again, not a major deal. But this really wasn’t the type of multi-tasking we’re discussing.
It appears we can become so accustomed to such focus-splitting in our daily lives, that we may feel we do it well. The experts agree, however, it’s not nearly as efficient as we presume and can even be harmful. The negative effects attributed to repeated periods of multitasking include increased stress, short-term memory loss, relationship interference, and even overeating.
Some jobs, where the pace is chronically hectic, require a degree of multitasking. The brain can often successfully handle brief periods that demand switching from one task to another. Over the long haul, however, the negative is likely to outweigh the positive. Studies reflect that the best results are realized when we focus our full attention on one task at a time.