Multitasking: Good? Bad? Meh?
Multitasking: performing more than one task at the same time.
Reading this blog post while brushing your teeth? Multitasking.
Making dinner while watching TV? Multitasking.
Mowing the lawn while listening to an audiobook? Multitasking.
The above examples are commonplace and likely not harmful to productivity. One could safely say performing two different tasks at once is efficient and helps humans get more stuff done.
But what about more hardcore multitasking? Replying to an email while on the phone with a client while helping your 7-year-old with distance learning while eating while …
Is multitasking good for us? Or is it bad? Does it help us get more things done? Or does it make it more difficult?
This blog post will touch on the science of multitasking, give some examples of how humans do (or do not) do it well, and close with how monday.com can help.
The browser tab game
Time for a game!
Stop reading this blog post and count how many browser tabs you have open.
Note: If you are using multiple devices at once, just count the tabs from one device. More on multiple devices later.
Go ahead. Take a few seconds (or minutes!) to count them all.
What was your number? 5? 10? 25? Or did you get distracted while counting and open another tab?
Let’s face it. We all do it.
We start our day with good intentions. Maybe just checking email when we open our laptop (Tab #1). But then we peek at Facebook (Tab #2). Then open a Google sheet (Tab #3). Then a quick look at Twitter (Tab #4) … which leads up to an interesting article (Tab #5).
Then … another article. Then you start researching a competitor, and then you take a quick Buzzfeed quiz.
And so on and so on. And it’s not even 9 AM.
We often don’t even shut down our devices at the end of the day, so the 32 tabs we had open yesterday are there waiting for us when we begin the next day.
Now take those open tabs on your one device and add them to your other devices — laptop tabs, tablet tabs, smartphone tabs (sometimes with multiple browsers using many tabs).
The number of open tabs at any given time can be quite overwhelming and may not be good for our brains.
And this is just open browser tabs!
Toss in Android multitasking and iPhone multitasking and iPad multitasking and iOS multitasking, and split-screen multitasking … add apps and your smartphone and food and children and all sorts of other distractions we face during the day, and multitasking can get overwhelmingly insane pretty quickly.
There is certainly evidence that we multitask, but are we good at it?
Spoiler alert: No.
Humans are terrible at multitasking (aka, the multitasking myth)
I know what you are thinking, “But I’m a great multitasker! Multitasking is a skill. It’s an asset. I have a line in my resume about how I’m a ‘multitasking machine’ and how it enables me to get more work done.”
Wrong. Wrong. And … wrong.
In this NPR Morning Edition piece — the one where they interview scientists! — we are told to ignore the multitasking hype. “New research shows that we humans aren’t as good as we think we are at doing several things at once.”
“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” says neuroscientist Earl Miller. Put simply, the human brain is very good at fooling us.
Miller says that humans can’t — for the most part — focus on more than one thing at a time. “Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said.
“You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”
This rapid switching of our attention from task to task is what scientists call task-switching — something the human brain can perform with astonishing speed.
But again, is multitasking task-switching an asset or a liability?
The monday.com take on multitasking
Here at monday.com, we believe multitasking is the #1 killer of productivity.
In this blog post, we share three reasons why multitasking is a problem:
- You lose sight of what’s important
- You lower your efficiency
- You feel burned out
Multitasking gives us the illusion of productivity when, in fact, it has the opposite effect.
Better yet, use a project tracking tool — software platforms that allow teams and individuals to plan projects, track project progress, and get stuff done — to improve your workflow.
Our favorite project tracking software platforms is monday.com, of course!
How monday.com helps you stop multitasking (and actually get more work done)
monday.com allows us to create workplace mindfulness — the ability to fully complete a particular task before moving on to the next one.
Here are some examples of how you can use monday.com to achieve workplace zen:
- Manage work by the week: creating a task board that breaks up complex work weeks into smaller, actionable days with a clear agenda for each day.
- Implement a time blocking system: Minimize distractions, create a sense of control, and increase productivity. Set up a board with all tasks, create templates with recurring tasks, add the calendar, and finally track the actual time. Here is a handy step-by-step time blocking guide.
- Practice time management: Create lists; group tasks by related projects, departments, or phases; define impacts, define quadrants, and so on. Learn more here.
But wait! What about [insert another tool you use here]? No problem. Check out one of the many monday.com integrations and add it directly to our platform.
With monday.com, you can focus on getting stuff done. No more multi-tasking. No more task-switching. One platform for everything work.
Still not convinced? Test monday.com for yourself.