How to deal with the multitasking of the workplace?

Service Business

The fashion for multitasking at work came to Poland in the 1990s. Today, in the era of modern technologies and new media, no one is surprised by the need to do one hundred things at once. Working on a report, handling e-mail, company messaging, answering phone calls, reporting work, contacting colleagues, switching from one open tab to the next - this is multitasking. Divided attention, the ability to work under time pressure and flexibility are features that are often repeated in job advertisements. Multitasking comes at a premium today. However, its hidden costs are rarely mentioned. Find out the risks of doing several things at once and how to deal with workplace multitasking.

Efficient multitasking doesn't exist

Effective multitasking is an oxymoron, according to Dr. Art Markman, a cognitive psychologist from Austin. The human brain is not able to focus on several tasks at the same time, argues Dr. Markman, then adds that it is correct to talk about time sharing. In practice, it looks like this:

  • the brain deals with one task at a time,

  • then the place of this task is taken by the next,

  • the change occurs so quickly that we are unable to notice it,

  • hence the illusion of multitasking, and we are really dealing with time-sharing.

If working in your company requires divided attention, follow Dr. Markman's advice:

  • Try to work on similar tasks. Switching from one task to another requires the brain to constantly adapt to new circumstances. Scientists have calculated that simply switching from one task to another costs us 30% of our working time each day. If we are suddenly distracted from the activity we were focused on, it will take us up to 20 minutes to return to our duties (at the level of 100% commitment)! To reduce loss of performance, group similar tasks. The closer they are, the easier it is for the brain to move on to the next ones.

  • Make a to-do list. Keep it visible at all times. This will save you time thinking about what else to do. This kind of thinking is tiresome in itself! In the sheer volume of duties, chaos is not an ally. Select your priorities in the list. Use different colors to identify the urgency of your duties.

  • Use the time between tasks to absorb new information. Before meeting the client, refresh your knowledge. Read the documents. Explain more complicated aspects until you understand them.

Generation Y wants more at the same time

Generation Y, also known as Net Generation, are young people who grew up in the Internet age. They are used to having to make quick changes, to react immediately to stimuli. Multitasking is a feature of the young generation. Scientists are most interested in the mechanisms between divided attention, a decrease in concentration and an increase in the number of stimuli. Previous studies on the representatives of the Y generation show that their lifestyle had an impact on the work of the brains. According to the report prepared by TNS Polska "Young Poles and their lives in high gear”, Representatives of the Y generation often complain about problems with concentration, stress, overwork. Internet children are more flexible and adapt faster to the changing environment. They absorb large amounts of information in a short time. On the other hand, they get bored quickly and absorb information in a cursory, temporary way.

Women are more multitasking than men

Women are better at multitasking than men, according to a UK study. The results of these analyzes have been published in the journal BMC Psychology. Men are slower and have more trouble organizing their work. The results showed that women work more efficiently than men under time pressure. They can set priorities and plan their work. The women were more methodical, the men were impulsive. According to the Focus monthly: “The researchers also noticed an interesting regularity: Although the results are unambiguous, it is men who are convinced that they can cope with many tasks at the same time, while women do not appreciate such a skill.”.

Multitasking at work is sometimes compared to multitasking at home. We often put in laundry, dishwasher, listen to the radio and iron at the same time. This saves time. The resemblance, however, is illusory and unauthorized. We must be 100% focused at work. Multitasking at the workplace requires complex thought processes.

The bright sides of multitasking

The world is rushing faster and faster. A return to single-task jobs is rather unlikely. Multitasking will continue to expand. Employment specialists also see a dormant potential in it. First, it will allow employees to develop their qualifications. Multitasking can also help fight burnout. Various tasks are a variety of everyday life and an opportunity for continuous learning. More and more companies are also changing the way they operate - instead of focusing on individual projects, they carry out several smaller tasks.

To keep multitasking in the workplace efficient, follow these tips:

  • make a list of duties and prioritize,

  • perform the most important tasks in the morning,

  • divide large tasks into smaller stages,

  • start a new project only after finishing the first one, when you are focused, do not distract yourself from the task,

  • keep your workplace, desk and desktop in order,

  • lead a healthy lifestyle. Remember to eat products that have a positive effect on the work of the brain. Get enough sleep. Do sports (it will allow better oxygenation of the brain),

  • eliminate distractions.