The Multi-Tasking Myth

Oh, just to have $1.00 for every time manager has asked me
to help recruit someone who can multi-task!

Back in 2001, I found a University of Michigan study that
showed that people who multi-task are 20% to 40% less
productive than a person who is not distracted from a
task.  This study proved that when a person divides
his/her attention frequently, there is a loss on all
tasks.

HR CONTRARIAN POINTER: Multi-Tasking Myth is the
assumption that someone who can constantly switch back and
forth to multiple demands is more productive than someone
who uses “block time” to concentrate on a single project.

In reality, I think that most requests that I get to hire
a multi-tasker are really requests to find someone who
can prioritize multiple tasks and meet deadlines with
accurate results.

However, for the manager who is looking for a true multi-
tasker, pay attention to another “nail in the coffin” of
the Multi-Tasking Theory.

In August 2009, researchers at Stanford University (see
link below) recently confirmed again that multi-tasking
doesn’t work.  In fact they tried to prove the theory that
multi-taskers were much more in control of information –
the opposite was true.

In this study, multi-takers were described as, “suckers
for irrelevancy” because “everything distracts them.”

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/august24/multitask-research-study-082409.html

It seems sort of elementary, but maybe we need to teach
employees how to properly plan their work and work their
plan while setting aside specific times for checking
emails, checking voicemails, responding to instant
messages, and all the other attention stealing
distractions that rob productivity.

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