Posted by: healingtheworkplace | February 6, 2015

The Perils of Multitasking

The Perils of Multitasking


We are constantly being reminded of the perils of multitasking but I don’t think many of us are listening.

“We seem to be becoming more anxious and more depressed, and brain overload has a lot to do with that.” Susan Blackmore, PhD

Multitasking, which is part of living in a 24/7 world, has become the norm in many workplaces.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia:

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines the term as “twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; constantly”. It lists its first reference to 24/7 as from US magazine Sports Illustrated in 1983. The man to use it was basketball player Jerry Reynolds and he was talking about his jump shot. This is when a player releases the ball in mid-air and Reynolds said his was “good 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year”.

The idea took hold and businesses realized the potential financial gains of being open around the clock.

As more people began working 24/7, the more they began asking for and using services that were available when they needed them. As a society, we have for the most part, accepted this accelerated rhythm of life.

At the same time the use of technology (computers, smart phones, etc.) for communication has made it possible to multitask while we work. I can write my blog posts while talking with someone on the phone. I know that some people have two computer screens open on their desk at the same time so that they can do more work.

Granted, we are all different and some of us may find it easier to multitask. As an introvert I have to be careful and I’ve learned about the perils of multitasking the hard way. Last year I attended an evaluation workshop organized by the Toastmasters clubs in my area.  In the afternoon we broke into groups of 8 – 10 people to share ideas about how to evaluate speakers. I was “nominated” by my group to collect their ideas and report back to the larger group of about 60 people.

The problem was that I couldn’t multitask—I couldn’t listen to the members of my group, synthesize what they were saying and come up with a cohesive summary. In the end I failed miserably. When I got up in front of the large group my mind was buzzing and I couldn’t “think straight”. In hindsight I realize that I should have written down as many of the suggestions as I could and then excused myself from the group and found a quiet place to digest what I’d heard and formulate a clear response.

I was certainly suffering from “brain overload” in that moment.

I try to keep my multitasking to a minimum because I have learned that it doesn’t work well for me. But what about those of you who work in environments were multitasking is seen as the norm or worse something to be proud of. What strategies do you have to help you avoid the perils of multitasking?

Cheers!

 

 

 

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