Multi-Tasking: good use of time, or a waste of time?

Ok, so what are you doing right now apart from reading this article?  Having a cup of coffee?  Skimming your emails to check for anything important?  Thinking about how you are going to tackle a customer or employee issue?  Wondering what to cook for dinner this evening?

The chances are you are doing more than one thing right now so is this good use of your time or is this actually ineffective use of your time?

Whilst many of us were brought up to believe that multi-tasking was a good thing and something that women are much better at than men; growing research is actually telling us that multi-tasking on the whole is not a good thing. In fact, multi-tasking can reduce productivity by up to 40% according to some researchers.

People tend to multi-task in two ways: either by completing more than one task at one time (for example, having a telephone conversation whilst sending an email) or by switching between lots of different tasks.  However, studies which have looked at people both switching between tasks and completing a number of tasks in quick succession, have demonstrated that more time is lost by doing so (Rogers and Monsell).  This decrease in productivity is lost further when completing complex tasks (Rubenstein, Evans and Meyer).

So if you are a multi-tasker and want to increase your productivity take one task at a time and focus on them until they are complete.  Also analyse what interrupts your working day most e.g., emails or staff asking to see you; and develop ways that ensure that these can be incorporated into the day without distracting you from the task on hand.

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