Productivity and efficiency depend on your ability to focus on one activity at a time. Focusing is thinking about the task or activity you’re doing while you’re doing it. Focused concentration results in high levels of productivity. Multitasking, on the other hand, leads to low levels of productivity.
When you’re talking on the phone and typing an email, are you truly doing two things at the same time?No, that’s impossible. Instead of engaging in two tasks at the same time, your mind is rapidly switching back and forth between both tasks, and neither task is receiving your full attention.
Have you ever had to stop in the middle of a conversation and say, “I’m sorry, what was that you said?” If so, you were experiencing one of the negative effects of multitasking—not being effective at either task.
If you work in a hectic environment and don’t have the ability to close your door, or if you are a cubicle dweller working in the chaos of the modern office environment, you probably multitask more than you might imagine.
If you find you have accomplished only a mere fraction of what you had planned to do by the end of the day, chances are you are multitasking and allowing too many interruptions.
A study was performed at two West Coast high-tech firms to note how many times employees were interrupted. Each time a worker was distracted from a task, it would take an average of 16 minutes to return to that task. Even worse, some people forgot what they had been working on. As this study shows, interruptions wreak havoc on short-term memory.
The next time you’re focused and working on a task, and an email pops up or the phone rings, ask yourself, “How much more time do I need to finish this task before allowing an interruption? Is it more productive to keep working or should I allow myself to be interrupted?”