Why Multitasking Is a Habit You (Probably) Need to Break
Think multi-tasking is a skill worth bragging about? Well, for most people, it’s not.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the employee who seems to handle everything all at once isn’t the workplace overachiever you might assume, writes Charles Coy of Cornerstone OnDemand. A new study from the University of Utah, in fact, suggests strongly that most people can’t juggle multiple tasks effectively at all.
“The people who are most likely to multitask harbor the illusion they are better than average at it,” says Strayer, “when, in fact, they are no better than average and often worse.” Echoes Arthur Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin: “There’s a small number of people who are decent multi-taskers,” he says. “But, at best, it’s maybe 10 percent of the population.”
The research by the University of Utah’s David Strayer and David Sanbonmatsu shows that multitasking can create a dangerous cycle of subpar work performance. The professors claim that multi-taskers are addicted to the idea of getting things done or of spicing up an otherwise monotonous task (listening to music at work, for example). And like any addict, workers have a tough time breaking the habit — even when they know their work is suffering.
So what can employers do? First, understand that workers aren’t meant to multi-task. Executives should value the quality of work done and not the quantity of it, Coy suggests.