If we could successfully multi-task, we’d (in theory) get everything done that we need to and still have time at the end of the day to pick up a good book and a glass of wine to relax and treat ourselves.
But that’s a dream world. (At least for a large majority of us)
When you’re growing up, you hear things like “Girls are better at multi-tasking. They can walk, talk, AND CHEW GUM all at the same time, but boys have to think about one thing at a time.” Of course, most of us can walk and talk at the same time, but that’s not the sort of multi-tasking that we’re looking at.
It’s surfaced recently all over the place that perhaps multi-tasking isn’t the best thing for our productivity. Do we actually get more done? Is the quality of our work suffering because we are focusing on too many things at the same time? Are we even actually multi-tasking or are we just bouncing around from project to project with no real organization or direction?
Hopefully we can clear up some of those questions and set ourselves straight when it comes to what it really means to multi-task.
10 Interesting Facts About Multi-Tasking
1. Put simply, multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman, 2010).
2. Your brain is only capable of storing between 5 and 9 bits of info at any given time. If you’re trying to jumble around more, you’re going to get lost somewhere along the way. You’re much better off focusing that attention on 1 or 2 related bits of information.
3. When you are interrupted by a task such as checking your email or someone stopping by to chat, not only are you not multi-tasking but it can take you up to 15 whole minutes to get your mind refocused on a task. This can be not only annoying, but also costly if you’re depending on your ability to focus and get the job done.
4. Perhaps there is no better example as to why multi-tasking can detrimental than to look at driving while distracted. Studies that have been conducted in recent years have found that driving while distracted (on the phone, texting, deep in conversation, etc) is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated (but please don’t do that either!)
5. The estimated cost of interruptions to the American economy is nearly $650 billion a year. (Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex, a business-research firm)
6. Multi-tasking isn’t impossible however. In fact, there are some people who can actually multi-task effectively. Unfortunately, they only are comprised of 2% of people so the odds are not in our favor.
7. On average, those individuals who use a computer for work (assuming near constant use) are distracted around once ever 10.5 minutes. In an 8 hour work day, your average employee might lose up to 2.5 hours to distractions – that’s a lot!
8. Even watching television, which seems like an engrossing activity, 42% of individuals will browse the internet, 29% will talk on their phones, and 26% will text or instant message someone else about an entirely unrelated topic.
9. Although we feel accomplished when we have a tv on, a book open, and are seemingly getting things done, we are actually accomplishing less than if we focused all of our attention to just one of the tasks at hand.
10. For you music lovers out there, don’t worry – Stanford Professor Clifford Nass reassures that “In the case of music, it’s a little different. We have a special part of our brain for music, so we can listen to music while we do other things.”