We all do it: Texting while walking, sending emails during meetings, chatting on the phone while cooking dinner. In today’s society, doing just one thing at a time seems downright luxurious, even wasteful.
But chances are, you’re not doing yourself (or your boss or your friends and family) any favours by multitasking your way through the day. Research shows that it’s not nearly as efficient as we like to believe.
What you call multitasking is really task-switching, “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount. It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviours like walking or chewing gum.’’ Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity, because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears-plus, you never get fully “in the zone’’ for either activity.
Wastes time/slows you down
Contrary to popular belief, multi tasking doesn’t save time. In fact it will probably take you longer to finish two projects when you’re jumping back and forth than it would to finish each one separately. The same is true even for behaviours as seemingly automatic as driving: in a 2008 University study, drivers took longer to reach their destinations when they chatted on cell phones. What tends to save the most time is to do things in batches. Pay your bills all at once, and then send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in it you should stay there and finish.