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The error of multitasking

No matter what you think, you are not good at doing more than one job at a time

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Multitasking is a waste of time. Although it may seem that performing more than one activity at a time helps us to finish our work faster, the fact is that that we end up doing it later and worse.

According to data compiled by Fuzebox, multitasking means it takes us 50% more time to finish a job and we also finish it with 50% more mistakes. It leads to a decline in productivity of 40% and its effects are the same as having 15 IQ points less and the triple of smoking cannabis. All this costs the global economy a total of $450 billion a year.

We are so accustomed to doing several things at once that we make this mistake even when we are talking to someone. Meetings can be more or less useful, but they are a waste of time when 92% admit to multitask during them, and 41% do so often or always, especially during conference calls (57%), and video conferences (23%), although (thankfully) less during meetings in person (16%).

We are not good at doing several things at once
Some argue that this does not apply to them as they are especially good with multitasking. But this belief is false. It does not matter how flexible and dynamic you are - multitasking impairs performance.

As David Kahneman explains in Thinking, Fast and Slow, our attention span is limited. For example, it is not a good idea to multiply 17x24 while driving in heavy traffic. In fact, driving is a task that can be done more or less automatically, thinking about our day or talking to other passengers, but only until we leave the road we already know, for example. And no one replies to a message while parking.

Multitasking requires a mental effort as it makes us process the information faster and faster to keep it in our short-term memory, which is why in the end, is much easier to make mistakes. Furthermore, this short-term memory can only hold five to nine data at a time, and if in addition there is no relationship between all this information, it is even more difficult to remember it.

Also, when we alternate our attention between tasks, our brain needs changing goals first and then enable the appropriate standards for this new process – these changes are easy and fast if they refer to simple tasks or if they do not incessantly accumulate throughout the day.

But it is increasingly difficult for these changes between tasks not to accumulate. For example, we check our phones an average of 150 times a day, not to mention the e-mails we receive on our laptops or the notifications from social networks that arrive to our tablets. In fact, we spend a minute and fifteen seconds working on each task before any given interruption.

Given this constant barrage of messages and given our inability to process information in parallel properly, there is a need to resort to habits that help us focus - turning off or silencing our phones, checking our e-mail mail at specific times, attending meetings without our laptops and using tools such as to-do lists, as well as pens and a notebooks.

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