I’ve lost track of all the articles I’ve read that make it clear that multitasking is not only ineffective, it’s probably not possible. They aren’t just speculative opinions either, as they are usually written by psychologists and neurologists.
The bottom line is that the research makes it clear that if you try to do multiple things at the same time, you’re not going to do them well.
Despite all of this, it still amazes me when I see a job advert that asks for someone who can multitask. It gets even worse when I’m told that women can multitask and men can’t.
Do business people know something the scientists don’t, or do we have a problem here?
I personally think this is part of a worrying shift towards a point where being seen as being productive in the workplace will be more important than what people actually produce. The growing demand for us to do several things at the same time is also likely to have a very negative effect on our health and wellbeing in future as well.
So What's the Answer?
Do we keep going down this path because it’s necessary to get things done or do we find a better way? For me, this is all about effectively managing our time and attention as well as the expectations of others.
We need to put all of our effort and energy into one thing whenever we can and do our best to avoid overloading others with things they simply can't do.
Everyone needs to understand why this is essential and why it makes sense. People at all levels of an organisation need to do their bit, look at the research and assess the long-term benefits of doing one thing well.