A lot of people list multitasking as a skill that they posses. The professional world makes it almost necessary to work on multiple priorities at once. My thought on the value of this “skill” differs than my peers.
I believe that you can only effectively work on ONE task at a time…
Think of it this way. Let’s say that you can measure the focus of a person with a pitcher of water. In front of them is a row of empty glasses. Each glass has a fill line to represent task completion. The glasses are grouped by their collective project, and a small space is left between each grouping to signify a project focus switch (ie. “changing gears”). Once the pitcher is turned and water begins to pour it cannot be tilted back to stop the flow of water (you only have a certain amount of time in a day). Once the pitcher is empty the day is over and another pitcher will be given for the next day.
Singletasking vs Multitasking; let’s get it on!
The single task worker pours in the liquid to one glass at a time; making sure to hit the fill line before move to the next task. The next task is then completed and the pitcher is moved over the next task. This continues until the group of glasses in the “project” are filled. Keep in mind that no water has been spilled outside of a glass yet because of their groupings. This may have taken several pitchers of water depending on the glass sizes (“task timelines”). However, the only water that is spilled on the tabled is when the pitcher is moved to the next project. This spilled water is measured over the course of all of the projects and it is found that it can fill half of a water pitcher; or half of a day.
The multitask worker pours the liquid while continuously moving the pitcher around to different tasks and projects. Water is spilling onto the table during focus shifts. In the end it takes more water (“more time”) to fill all of the glasses due to the amount spilled (“focus changes”). The spilled water is measured and found that it can fill multiple pitchers; or multiple days of lost productivity!
Something to remember is that it is not always the fault of the person doing the pouring; sometimes it is the employer forcing the employees hand to move around and waste the productivity. This will have multiple consequences for the employee including; lower-moral, loss of sense of control, higher stress, loss of connection with work, etc.
So you think that you are one of the 2% that can multitask without spilling any water? Check out this link: http://mashable.com/2012/08/13/multitasking-infographic/