Multitasking: Some Folks Do

We enjoyed (and retweeted) an article by Ilya Pozin that appeared on inc.com and got picked up as a feature on LinkedIn yesterday: 7 Things Highly Productive People Do. Here’s a quote about multitasking:

Stop multi-tasking. No, seriously—stop. Switching from task to task quickly does not work. In fact, changing tasks more than 10 times in a day makes you dumber than being stoned. When you’re stoned, your IQ drops by five points. When you multitask, it drops by an average of 10 points, 15 for men, five for women (yes, men are three times as bad at multitasking than women).

Ilya’s point is in line with the research and methodology we’ve developed for our 4 Big Lies webinar. We thought the advice “Stop Multitasking” made universally good sense. But there’s another side. Here are some samples from the comments under Ilya’s post on Inc.com:

“So for me working on several things is the most productive thing for me. I had to learn how to do this because the rest of the world thinks you have to stick with one thing till it is done, which crippled me.”

“My natural instinct is to Agree with [previous commenter] about the multi tasking, as that is one of my natural skills that has helped me be sucessful.”

“For me, Multi-tasking is an essential skill, that technology has made easier.”

“Good in theory, not in practice for the services industry (PR, ADV, Marketing) – tell your clients you are only going to check email three times a day and shut off IM and you’ll quickly wind up with terminations. Shut the door, work in 90 minute intervals – and your team collaboration goes out the window. Again, good tips and goals, but clearly need to be adjusted based on industry.”

“Ha ha ha–the write obviously doesn’t HAVE to multi-task for a living. Ask any nurse (or mother) to not multitask. Good luck.”

We’re very interested in what makes multitasking effective for some people. Or for others, is it just busyness, which gives people the illusion of effectiveness?

Are you a multitasker? Is it working well for you? If so, we would like to interview you for our research. Leave a comment and tell us about it.

Discussion · 5 Comments

There are 5 responses to "Multitasking: Some Folks Do".
  1. Veronica Brown says:

    December 20, 2011 at 11:48 am

    An interesting note: the author of the Inc. article, Ilya Pozin, has the twitter handle @ilyaNeverSleeps. We hope his “7 Things” will help him get some sleep. As we develop our productivity methodology for business people, sleep happens to be on the list of objectives.

  2. Rob Burgner says:

    December 21, 2011 at 8:50 am

    For myself, establishing a happy medium was necessary. Outlook pinging every two minutes when a new email came in was a productivity killer but checking email only thrice daily would result in some very unhappy clients. Focusing on one task for hours takes away urgency for me, resulting in the project taking longer than it would if I allocate an hour to focus before switching to another task.

    My most productive days feature an hour spent on “maintenance” activities, i.e. items that require just a few minutes to complete, alternated with an hour or so on uninterrupted work requiring extreme focus.

    • Veronica Brown says:

      December 22, 2011 at 3:23 pm

      Rob, you’ve hit on a few different points that are really interesting.

      > checking email only thrice daily would result in some very unhappy clients

      So many productivity gurus say to turn off email alerts, and so many real-world workers reply that their clients demand instant access. We’re developing a program of (what we’re so far calling) work styles, that take into account that service-oriented workers need to be “on call” to customers. The time management techniques for a service worker are entirely different from a production worker. Mixing production the two causes major brain drain.

      >Focusing on one task for hours takes away urgency for me, resulting in the project taking longer than it would if I allocate an hour to focus before switching to another task

      Wow, it’s great that you know this about yourself. I wonder how many of us (and I do mean “us”) don’t gt this. Work expands to fill its “container” on the calendar. Without deadlines, I would fiddle endlessly and become an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist.

      >My most productive days feature an hour spent on “maintenance” activities, i.e. items that require just a few minutes to complete, alternated with an hour or so on uninterrupted work requiring extreme focus.

      By jove, you’ve got it!

  3. LG says:

    December 21, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I’m interested in knowing how successful are these real multi-taskers 🙂

    • Veronica Brown says:

      December 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      LG, I hope we can research the difference–assuming there is one (and I do)–between the gain in productivity people get from multitasking, and their actual performance results.

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