When you hear someone talk about multitasking, you might think it refers only to people who are highly skilled at utilizing different computer programs at once. But that’s not the only definition of multitasking. In fact, the term can apply to many human activities. Below, we’ll look at four of the more common uses of this word in the workplace and education.
Human multitasking, as the name suggests, refers to the ability of a person to simultaneously perform two things at once. In an everyday situation, it is possible for a person to type on a keyboard while talking on the telephone. But what constitutes multitasking?
What Happens When We Multitask?
In order to really understand what multitasking is, it helps to take a closer look at how our brains work. Our attention is divided among two things, which is what causes many of our cognitive processes to slow down: searching for attention and processing information. One problem with performing both tasks at once is that the brain has to switch between the searching and processing aspects of the brain, causing a shortening of its response time. People who multitask pay attention better and perform more efficiently because they are allowing their brains to separate the two tasks and focus on one thing at a time.
In a recently published study, organizational researchers led by doctoral student Maureen O’Neil conducted an experiment on the relationship between multitasking and task switching. The researchers found that multitasking indeed can be a curse. Those who multitasked in the study performed worse at task switching than those who didn’t multitask.
The reason for the bad performance of those multitaskers was because they had allowed their brain to wander away from the immediate task at hand. When they switched to performing only one task, the brain was able to regain focus and perform better, showing that multitasking in itself can be a problem. O’Neil believes that we are naturally attracted to doing multiple tasks, but that the constant juggling must eventually take its toll. This study is important, she says, because it gives us the chance to “cure” multitasking.
Long Term Effects
Over time, multitasking can cause a number of problems. multitasking is often blamed for the decreased productivity of office workers, who are frequently tempted to juggle too many tasks. They may also be blamed for increasing the stress level of some people, especially those whose jobs are based primarily around telecommuting. Some of these problems caused by multitasking can even be solved by simply putting aside one task and spending a few minutes performing another one. The solution may come in the form of a portable electronic device such as a mobile phone, which is highly recommended by researchers conducting studies on multitasking and attention.
Based on the different information that we have discussed we can confidently conclude that multitasking can have both positive and negative effects on a business. It is important that both the positives and negatives of this process is taken into account when multitasking is being considered in order to ensure that the best results can be delivered.