Multi-Tasking May Not Be as Good as It Seems

by Dr. Enozia Vakil on  November 27, 2012 at 11:43 AM Lifestyle and Wellness
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The overachieving world admires people who tackle many tasks at once, but researchers say that devoting attention to one thing at a time is more productive and better for your health and safety. The human capacity for simultaneously handling multiple tasks has been discussed and studied for centuries. With anything and everything needed to be accomplished in 20- minute span, this is what most of us end up doing throughout the day.
Multi-Tasking May Not Be as Good as It Seems
Multi-Tasking May Not Be as Good as It Seems

Modern humans may be called super humans, with their incredible capability of doing the laundry, sending emails, helping kids with the homework and eating at the same time. We are the masters of multitasking, and some of these routines become a habit over time.

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However, this may be more of a risk than a boon. You may be impressed at yourself for handling quite a lot of tasks at once, but this bubble is about to burst.

Serial tasking

While you may consider yourself efficient at multitasking and even brag about it, the fact is, not everyone can multitask. In fact, you may be actually doing what's called 'serial tasking'. Instead of doing many things at a time, you're actually carrying out many tasks, one at a time, in rapid succession.

A study on multi-tasking published in the American Psychological Association's website describes how this type of multitasking is not efficient, rather, it is harmful at times.

Similarly, another study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed shocking results on how the greatest multitaskers are in fact, the worst multitaskers. It showed how those who regarded themselves as great multitaskers were more likely to make mistakes and had difficulty concentrating and took longer time to finish tasks than those who did one thing at a time.

It is thus very clear that trading accuracy for speed can have disastrous consequences on both, your mental health and your work efficiency.

Focal Pointers

The best way to focus on your task is to avoid distractions. Here are a few tips that will put you in a clear frame of mind, stay focused, and help you perform better at work.

Close your cabin door and turn off your cell phone.

Schedule meeting times to avoid people popping into your office every now and then.

Check your voice mails only at scheduled timings.

Prioritize. Plan your day well ahead of time to make sure you have the time for everything.

Delegate. Get your kids to help with the dishes so that Mom and Dad don't have to juggle with too many tasks.

Set your email program that lets you check your mails every hour, instead of every minute.

A quick test

Still think you're good at multitasking? Take this quick test to see how your brain deals when too many things are done at once.

Time yourself as you create 2 separate lists - the letters of the alphabet and the numbers from 1 to 26.

Now, alternate the numbers with the characters (A1, B2, C3.....) and so on. Then again, create the lists as done previously (viz. the alphabets and the numbers from 1-26). Most people find that switching between the numbers and letters takes nearly twice as long and the work is more likely to be riddled with errors.

Source: Medindia

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