Multitasking is a dangerous myth in the modern workplace. It is mentioned as a praiseworthy attribute in our employees, but there are consequences to them constantly dividing their attention as they work through their to-do list each day.
When we multitask, our brain is not really doing a range of things all at the same time. It is moving from one task to the next, flipping back and forth between them. Some people’s minds can flit from one to another more rapidly than others, but the effect is the same: A lack of clear and effective communication and a loss of productivity.
When your attention is divided, you might:
- Miss important information
- Mishear important information
- Need to ask the other person to repeat themselves because you did not catch it the first time
- Do an incomplete job on two projects and not finish them on time, or do a bad job on all your tasks because you are so distracted.
Let’s look at each of these in turn and why they can become a serious issue in your business.
Miss important information
If you are trying to do two things at once, you are likely to fail at both. If you are inside of your own head trying to complete a task, you are certainly not going to hear everything that is being said to you. If someone taps on your door and asks if you have a moment while you are in the middle of something, you have two choices. You can stop what you are doing, or ask them to come back in X minutes when you will have reaches a natural stopping point and can give what they have to say your full attention.
Mishear important information
Using the same example above, if a person comes over to your desk while you are trying to write an email, chances are that both forms of communication will miss their mark. You might mishear important information, or only recall a couple of the several important points once the person has gone. You have also hit the Send key without checking the email, so everyone who receives it asks you what you are talking about.
Need to ask the other person to repeat themselves because you did not catch it the first time
This is a huge time-waster for both parties. Again, it can be avoided by each person focusing at that particular moment on the task at hand, that is, having a discussion about a particular topic.
In some cases, it will not be possible to ask the person to repeat themselves, such as in an important meeting. This being the case, take a notebook and pen. Leave the laptop and cellphone behind so you will not be distracted. If you have to have a laptop for the meeting, turn off all your alerts or minimize those windows so they do not interrupt your concentration.
Do an incomplete job on two projects and not finish them on time, or do a bad job on all your tasks because you are so distracted.
Multitasking will cause an assignment that should only take half an hour to last a lot longer and be of inferior quality because your attention is divided and it is difficult to follow an interrupted chain of thought. There might be gaps in the work and it will look rushed and disorganized, especially if you run out of time and are not able to check your work through.[Tweet “Avoid dividing your attention and see how much more effective your office communications will become.”]