The Truth about Multitasking

b loehr - multitaskingIt would appear we’re not as good at multitasking as we think. I, for one, find this news quite distressing.

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.

Understanding and Mastering the Art of Communication

(This is the first post in a 3-part series on Communication. Watch for “Communication that gets Results” and “Improving your Communication Skills” in the next two posts.)

What does it Mean to Communicate?

Communication, by definition, is the flow of information between people. Simple, right? But it’s more than simply words passing from mouths to ears. True communication encompasses all the processes by which people influence each other, making the entire issue of communication a complex, sometimes tricky, endeavor.

In part one of this series, we’ll examine how three types of communication impact the workplace:

  • Verbal – information that passes over the phone or in person
  • Non-verbal – cues like facial expressions, body stance, and tone of voice
  • Listening – ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process

Verbal communication

Effective verbal or oral communication demands that you understand the power of words, and how word choice must vary from setting to setting, from event to event. Take the airline industry for example. Their carefully chosen words are meant to calm rather than instill panic. They consciously chose to say “flotation device” rather than “life preserver”; no mention of a “barf bag” rather a “motion discomfort bag” is available; the plane may experience “mechanical difficulty” but it is not “broken”. You get the picture.

Also consider volume which can show great energy or a total lack of enthusiasm and inflection which puts emphasis on the most important part of your message.

Words may lead the way, but it’s non-verbal communication that goes the distance.

Nonverbal Communication

In Principles of Management, Mason Carpenter, Talya Bauer, and Berrin Erdogan share –

“What you say is a vital part of any communication. But what you don’t say can be even more important. Research also shows that 55% of in-person communication comes from nonverbal cues like facial expressions, body stance, and tone of voice. According to one study, only 7% of a Receiver’s comprehension of a Message is based on the Sender’s actual words; 38% is based on paralanguage (the tone, pace, and volume of speech), and 55% is based on nonverbal cues (body language).[5]

It’s essential that non-verbal communication reinforce your message, not contradict it. If your words say one thing, but your body language goes a different direction, you listener may feel you’re being dishonest. Enhance your verbal communication with the use of open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact.

Listening

Very possibly the most important facet of communication involves only the ears and the brain. It’s crucial to understand that listening is not the same as hearing.

According to Life Skills You Need –

“Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages.”

Those seeking to improve their listening skills—and that should be all us—would do well to remember the words of Mark Twain:

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.

Listening without interruption, while observing body language, is the best way to connect with another person. Giving your undivided attention assures the speaker you are making an effort to truly grasp what is being said. When the speaker is finished, it’s good to clarify to insure you did indeed understand the message.

Understanding and putting into practice the various components of effective communication will make you better at your job whatever position you hold.

B Loehr Staffing takes time to communicate with clients and field associates. We listen to your needs, and then connect you with the best fit.  Contact B. Loehr Staffing for all of your hiring and employment needs.