- On February 24, 2015
I was helping a young man with his resume and I asked about some of his character strengths hoping we could work those into the content. “Multi-tasking,” was his answer. “I can get several things done at the same time.”
Warning flags went up for me as a coach and also as an employer.
Being able to effectively operate in a fast paced environment is an essential business skill, however the strength is to be laser focused in the midst of the chaotic barrage of inputs. Reacting to, and being unconsciously distracted by, many sensory inputs—muti-tasking– is not nearly as effective. Numerous studies report that multi-tasking has no benefits and in fact takes longer time and leads to a poorer quality of effort.
How much is your effectiveness degraded?
Try this little experiment I learned in a leadership class by Rasmus Hougaard of The Potential Project.
Get a piece of paper and a pen. Ask someone to time you with a stopwatch. On the paper, draw four parallel horizontal lines, like on lined note paper.
Part I. When the timekeeper says “Go,” print the phrase “I am a great multitasker” on the 1st line. Then write the numbers “ 1 2 3 4…” in sequence up to the number “20” on line 2. Stop the time.
Part II. This round you are using lines 3 and 4. When the timekeeper says “Go,” you will write the same two items, “I am a great multitasker” and “1 2 3 4 5…20” except you will alternate between letters and numbers. Write the “I” from the phrase on line 3, then the “1” from the number sequence on line 4. The “a” on line 3, the “2” on line 4. The “m” on line 3, the “3” on line 4. Do this until you finish the phrase and the number sequence at “20.” Stop the time.
Compare your two times. What do you notice about the times and about how you felt doing Part I versus Part II?
When I did this experiment I completed Part I in 20 seconds, Part II in 55 seconds—almost 3X longer. And I was far more tired from the concentration of trying to shift my focus between two things constantly.
Anyone still think they are more effective by multi-tasking?