95% of people multitask on average a third of the day.—Adam Gazzaley
We’ve talked about multi-tasking in the past, that it’s linked to a higher likelihood of errors, and that it affects our stress levels and how we feel.
The Adam’s Gazzaley’s quote above is from Fortune magazine, and it helped us decide that the issue of multi-tasking needed to be revisited. If 95% of us spend a third of our day multi-tasking, that means for a third of each day:
- We are not active listeners
- We lose focus on what we’re trying accomplish
- We’re trying to get our brain to do something it’s not equipped to do (do two things at once that require thought)
Have you ever been speaking with someone and you get the feeling “nobody’s home”? How do you feel when you realize what you’re saying is not valued since you’re not even being heard? Ouch. As leaders, we must be active listeners! We need our team to feel valued.
A Stanford study shows that efforts to regularly multi-task may impair our cognitive control. They found that “people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time”.
Other studies show that when we multi-task, instead of saving time, we’re more than likely wasting time. This is due to the need to “switch gears” which is linked to a higher error rate and insufficient attention to detail. We need to know how to filter out irrelevant information, and focus on what’s needed to achieve our goals, and work on them one at a time.
Realistically we aren’t just working on or managing one task/event/challenge in our work day, so what’s key is the ability to manage our workload. Schedule your day; what do you need to accomplish when? Start with the most critical task first, and if you’re on a conference call, avoid reading through and responding to email, or updating financials. (Most of us are guilty of this)!
One final note from Dr. Clifford Nass, Professor at Stanford University:
What our results are showing is that those that frequently multitask have a lower success rate when they’re multitasking, and that they have a lower success rate when they are not multitasking.
We guess it’s time for us multi-taskers to revisit the value we thought it provided us!
Read more about MANAGING YOUR TIME
The short answer to whether people can really multitask is no.—Chris Adams