With the increasing pressure to perform your best and always be at the top, no matter what the cost – gives rise to the tendency of multitasking, be it in modern offices, or a very competitive college course or the rat race among students to come out as best of the lot.
Even though it feels like one gets a lot of work done while multitasking, juggling one important duty with another and sometimes simultaneously, it ultimately results in outcomes that are always below the superior expectations of both the worker and the preceptor. And why not? It is very obvious that a project which has been done with absolute focus on part of the worker will yield a better result than a fleeting bout of concentration followed by the anxiety to finish it within a shorter amount of stipulated time, while at the back of the mind, a completely different thought process goes on regarding the complimentary task.
Even though multitasking could sometimes seem like the solution to a lot of problems especially under high-pressure conditions, it is not – on the contrary, itself is a growing problem spreading as an epidemic in the dog-eat-dog world of modern corporate life. It does not increase productivity no matter what it might look like at face-value. As we multitask, we actually force ourselves to work on overdrive, while our brain switches gear almost in a superhuman manner trying to fulfill our dual duties somehow within a stringently stipulated amount of time, giving no heed to the quality of the work that ensues. And as a result, no matter the effort you put in, the end productivity always gets hampered, rendering your best efforts a moot point in the grander scheme of things.
Although it is not possible to absolutely let go of multitasking when it comes to the daily grind, the understanding of how it hampers our productivity by an estimated 40% would perhaps help to nullify the negative effects of it.
In order to understand how multitasking affects us, the American Psychological Association has discerned the tendency into 3 specific strains
Discerning the tendencies of multitasking among the new crop of results-driven humans does not necessarily mean that any one of them has worse effects than the other, but all three are equal evils to the ability of the human mind to exercise their full capacity as a whole.
Research indicates that only about 2% of the whole population of the world are proficient in multitasking, and this 2 % are the least likely ones to multitask. A lot of us have the perception that somehow we are part of the elusive elite 2%, but the irony lies in the fact that those who think that they can multitask with efficiency, are often the worst at it.
Most people who multitask follow the third tendency, i.e, rapidly jumping from one task to another with minimal switch breaks in between. When the amount of work to be completed within a certain time is less, the switch cost is relatively less than when you have a heap load of work to be finished within a certain deadline. This repeated switches between different tasks cause a back-and-forth current resulting in brief mental blocks hampering work productivity by up to 40% of someone’s usable time. Thus, even though multitasking looks to be time-saving and efficient on the surface, it actually ends up costing more time and reduced quality of end-product.
Apart from the very obvious reasons of being a part of the corporate rat race, and meeting deadlines and the prospect of getting a gold star at the end, there are also a few other causes which lead people to multitask, which are: