In today’s 24/7 culture, we tend to believe that by doing several things at once we can better handle the flood of information rushing toward us. We think that when we multitask, we can get more done throughout the day.
Unfortunately, current research shows the opposite. Recent studies show that when we engage in multitasking, our productivity is unequivocally damaged. The always-on, multitasking work environment has slowly been killing our productivity, dampening our creativity, and making us unhappy.
It Slows Us Down
Our brains are designed to only focus on a single task at a time. When we regularly switch between tasks, especially complex tasks, we become less efficient. A recent study showed that it takes us 30 percent longer to complete tasks in parallel than if we were to achieve the same tasks sequentially. This delay is caused because our brains aren’t able to tell us to perform two actions at the same time. When we switch between tasks, our brains must choose to do so, by turning off the cognitive rules for the first task and turning on the cognitive rules for the second task. This takes time and reduces our productivity.
Switching between tasks and trying to juggle multiple responsibilities at once hampers our creativity. When you fragment your days with numerous activities, meetings, and group discussions your creative thinking significantly decreases. Creative problem solving requires several thoughts to be held at once in your memory. This allows us to sense connections we hadn’t previously seen, providing us with the opportunity to forge new ideas. When we bounce around from thought to thought, we are less likely to be able to make these connections. Researchers at Harvard Business School found that creative thinking among workers is actually higher when they only focus on a single activity for a significant part of their day and collaborate with only one other person.
It Makes Us Anxious
Researchers have found that people who are asked to multitask show higher levels of stress hormones. A recent survey of managers revealed that two-thirds of respondents believed that information overload had lessened job satisfaction of their employees and damaged their personal relationships and health.
More evidence has begun to emerge showing that multitasking can also be incredibly addictive. Given how severely multitasking can decrease our productivity and quality of work, it’s important to find simple ways to reduce information overload and gain back our sanity.