The other day, my brother-in-law, Lino, sent us an email called “The Myth of Multitasking”. I had just gotten into work and had a few things to check off my list, so I didn’t think much of it, but flagged it for later on. When I finally had a chance to open it, it was a podcast from NPR about multitasking and its effects on us, our work and our minds, which sparked the question: can we really do it all?
I won’t lie to you- I often find myself working on work, brainstorming blog ideas and/or starting posts, checking my phone, seeing my email pop up in the bottom corner of my screen, wondering how much longer till lunch, chatting with my coworkers, and still imagining that each of these tasks will be done right. News flash: They usually aren’t!
The podcast asks listeners how long they can go without checking email, or glancing at their smartphones? For me, it depends on what I’m doing. If I’m watching a movie, I’m good about it. But here at work, I’m always checking my phone and email. Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford University, says today’s nonstop multitasking actually wastes more time than it saves—and he says there’s evidence it may be killing our concentration and creativity, too. In my line of work (PR professionally and blogging on the side), a lack of creativity is not ok.
He says we are remarkably hooked on multitasking, stating that the top 25% of Stanford students are using 4 or more media while using media. That means these students are most likely writing a paper, Tweeting, listening to music and checking out Facebook, all at the same time. He also stated that studies have shown that people who regularly multitask show a multitude of deficits, meaning, they are doing a lot of things wrong, and not too many things very well.
This was actually an argument that Mr. R staged against me and my college roomies. We used to all bring our computers to the living room, grab the snacks and try to watch episodes of Law and Order or Grey’s Anatomy while knocking out that annoying paper that was due in the morning. Our argument was that we could definitely catch everything that was going on in the show, and still fully focus enough on our schoolwork to write a solid paper. His argument was that our attention was split, thus our work had to suffer and/or we weren’t really paying attention to the show. He wins.
I think knowing all this probably makes you take a step back to reevaluate your multitasking abilities (or at least it does for me!) Is scrolling Facebook at work and checking to see if I got a Snapchat really worth typos in my presentation at work? Could clearing my head of plans for tonight really help my creative juices get flowing so I can write awesome blog content? I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely going to think twice before saying, “Oh it’s ok- I can totally do three things at once!”
So what do you think- are you a Master Multitasker, or do you see better results when you put your head down, shut off all distractions, and focus fully on your work?
P.S. Listen to the full story here.