This Fast Company article makes a great point about how multi-tasking does not necessarily make us more productive. Likely, it’s just the opposite.
Doing two things at once, like singing while you take a shower, is not the same as instant messaging while writing a research report. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can multitask jobs that need your full attention. You’re not really having a conversation while you write; you’re shifting your attention back and forth between the two activities quickly. You’re juggling. When you juggle tasks, your work suffers AND takes longer–because switching tasks costs.
To see what it’s like to use the SAME part of your brain for two different activities, try this:
You might also share my experience of talking (hands-free) on the phone while driving. It all works well until you hear a siren or see something unusual. At that point, you’re likely to shift your focus or say, “hold on, I need to pay attention to the road.”
“Surprisingly our results show that interrupted work is performed faster. We offer an interpretation. When people are constantly interrupted, they develop a mode of working faster (and writing less) to compensate for the time they know they will lose by being interrupted. Yet working faster with interruptions has its cost: people in interrupted conditions experienced a higher workload, more stress, higher frustration, more time pressure, and greater effort. So interrupted work may be done faster but at a price.
Those seeking ways to increase productivity will be more successful if they busy themselves with an additional mindless activity, like doodling or fidgeting, rather than with a distracting activity that interrupts their chain of thought or uses a similar area of the brain. Alternatively, committed multitaskers might consider taking a walk or chewing gum while they’re thinking, talking, or working.