Multitasking is an overrated concept that can negatively affect your productivity. Yes, you heard that right. Even though you may often see the word “multitasker” in most of the resumes you view when vetting new hires, it is not something you should look for. In fact, it devalues other key skills such as mastery and the ability to conjure up creative ideas.
But let’s not forget that there are ways of combining tasks and methods to make managing multiple tasks work for you. However, it takes time and a good understanding of its impact on efficiency before you can come up with a multitasking strategy that yields a beneficial output for your small business.
Our Minds are Like Computers
It’s long been deduced that our minds and bodies are wired to work the same way as computers do.
Computers do many things very well. They can perform complex calculations, and the fastest computers can crunch trillions of numbers each second. Humans make calculations in a way similar to digital computers. The human prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia appear to have two states similar to the binary systems in a computer (source: Science Daily).For example, before you can work on a specific task such as reading a technical document, your brain has to load and condition your mindset to just use your eyes. You will then have full capacity to take in as much information as you can without thinking about what your hands are supposed to be doing.
During this time, your subconscious tells you to find connections and references on the topics you are reading. You interpret the printed words and translate their meaning into a cohesive summation of the words on the page.
The Impact of Simple Distractions
Now what happens if in the middle of a paragraph you get an email notification, and you choose not to ignore it? Your mind tries to shift to “email reply” mode in just a short moment. You write a quick email and then get back to your initial task. As you know, it’s hard to avoid a distraction.
And yet you expect to be able to return back to the document you were reading with the same attention and focus. Problem is, much like computers, our minds can’t make the shift right away. It actually takes around 15 minutes to transition fully to a different task. That is, if you expect to come up with productive results after you’re done.
Even computers freeze or shut down when asked to do too many tasks at once. You may argue that stronger computers can work on several programs at the same time, but the working capacity of human brains have limits. Sure it can improve over time, but we’ll get to that later.
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