The Fallacy of Multitasking
Let's imagine that you finally decide to ignore the latte factor and buy a cup of $5 iced coffee at the nearby coffee shop. It smells good, but you want to drive home before you drink it because your baby just started crying, and you know she wants to be home as soon as possible. (See also: 3 Reasons Why Keeping Your "Latte Factor" Will Help You Save Money)
You get out of your car, holding the cup of coffee in one hand and while carrying your baby home, and she decides that the coffee is better on the ground than in your hand. Slap! With baby arms swinging, all you can manage is the look of disbelief as you see your coffee splattered all over your front lawn.
You ask yourself why you didn't just carry the baby into the living room before going back out to get the coffee, but what's done is done. You make sure your child is safe, and then you quickly try to undo the new "brown grass" that you just created. In an effort to save about 35 seconds of your life, you wasted that cup of coffee, managed to wipe that smile off your face, and spent another 10 minutes trying to turn brown back to green.
Misconceptions of Multitasking
I hope this doesn't sound familiar, but how many times have you tried to do two things at once, only to end up taking more time than if you just focused on one task at a time?
Every time I hire someone, I make it a point to discuss multitasking if the word ever shows up on the resume. Many people think that multitasking simply means doing two things at once, but it's seldom possible. What ends up happening is that the quality of work on both tasks suffers, and sometimes, things even need to be redone. This is the opposite of efficiency.
There's No True Multitasking
In reality, we just aren't wired to perform two tasks at once. And this may come as a surprise to some, but neither are computers. What actually happens is that all the resources of the computer are shared by each task, with some resources used to handle the switching between the tasks. The illusion of true multitasking only happens because the computer can do this so efficiently and quickly that it seems to be doing everything at once. Have you ever tried to open many different programs, and they all take forever to load? This is multitasking at work.
How to Improve Your Efficiency
Instead of trying to do two things at the same time, you should actually be trying to focus on one task at a time. Get one thing done, then move onto the next. In real life, there will no doubt be times when you have to handle two projects concurrently. In these cases, you still have to focus on one project at a time. Work on one, then set it aside while you work on the other. Anytime you try to switch between the two means time lost, so do your best to keep "project hopping" to a minimum!
Additionally, here are some tips to help you focus on only one task:
- Cut out distractions by learning to say no.
- Write down everything about the project you aren't working on at the moment, so you don't have to think about it or worry that you will forget about little details.
- Put a higher emphasis on having enough sleep. It's hard, I know, but when you aren't tired all the time, you will be able to concentrate better and you can get everything done more quickly, giving you a bit more time to have more sleep.
- Check out these tips to help you get more done.
Next time you try to multitask, beware of the loss in efficiency, and think twice before you try to work on two tasks at once.