Skip to Main Content


The Art of Messing Several Things Up at Once

Posted in Professional Development

Author: Jeanne Callan

Have you ever walked into a room to get something, only to find that once you are in that room you have no idea why you are there? If you have experienced that frustration and assumed that it must be the first signs of old age, there could be another reason - multitasking.  

For years, employers have sought out potential employees that portray unearthly multitasking skills. It was a prerequisite for any job in the insurance industry.  If employees were not able to do a minimum of three things at the same time, they were considered sub-par or even lazy. Which begs the question, how wonderfully productive are those glorious people who successfully juggle a phone call while typing an email while doing yoga all at the same time?  

In this never-ending quest for maximum efficiency, our society has gone too far. Recently, studies have uncovered the horrifying side effects of too much multitasking. 

Memory Impairment   
  • There are several studies on this topic, and one of them is a decade long research project by a Stanford psychologist, Anthony Wagner. His studies show that avid multitaskers perform worse on simple memory tasks.  This suggests that short term memory suffers from too much multitasking.
Safety Hazard  
  • According to the Department of Transportation, distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017 alone. Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone.  Diverting attention from driving is just another way to say multitasking, and it’s deadly.  Many states have created new laws resulting in fines and even possible license suspension for offenders and repeat offenders.  
Increased Stress  
  • Multitasking is just plain stressful.  According to an article in Psychology Today, the constant bombardment of information to which people try to respond to can elevate the stress response. This also means that a chronic multitasker can potentially develop chronic stress. 
Decreased Engagement 
  • Multitasking sounds good, but when you think about it, our brains cannot do more than one thing at a time.  Instead, what happens is that we are starting and stopping different tasks by going from one task to another in rapid succession without completing either.  This also makes us less engaged in any of the tasks at all.  This has even been tied to eating.  If you do not focus on eating and enjoying the meal in front of you and instead eat while watching television, reading, or e-mailing, you will not fully process the meal, which can cause you to overeat.
Decreased Productivity  
  • When you are going back and forth on two things in rapid succession, it will take you longer to finish the projects than if you decided to focus on one thing at a time. This is evident in a 2008 University of Utah study, which proved that drivers took longer to reach their destinations when they chatted on cell phones.
Increased Errors  
  • Switching between tasks can create errors, especially if some of the tasks require a lot of critical thinking.
It’s Hurting your Relationships 
  • Here are a few examples of how multitasking can end up hurting both your personal and professional relationships.  
    • You walk into your boss’s office to talk about a complicated situation.  Your boss continues to read and even respond to emails while you are talking.  
    • Or, you are at the dinner table with your significant other who is telling you all about his/her day.  Your phone is right next to your dinner plate, and you are checking out your Facebook feed.  
    • Or, you are sitting on the couch watching your favorite show or game when your daughter asks for help with her homework.  You have one eye on the show and the other on the homework only paying full attention to your daughter during the commercials. All of these relationships suffer from multitasking. 
Do you have an issue with multitasking? Then try this! Over the next week try focusing your attention on one thing at a time and see if you can tell the difference in your stress level, productivity, and the quality of your relationships.  


Related Blogs

view all blog posts