Ah multitasking. It sounds so sexy and so self important and it has become a way of life for a lot of people. Wait, hold on for just a sec, I need to answer this text…………….OK I'm back. Because of multitasking's popularity, it has also become one of the biggest problems for personal productivity. The problem is likely to get worse as technology get easier to use and more readily available.
Take a look at these stats on multitasking and interruptions:
When drivers text, their collison risk is 23 times greater than when not texting.
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, 2009
Organizations lose around $1,250 per user in annual productivity because of time spent dealing with spam, $1,800 unnecessary emails from co-workers, $2,100 – $4,100 due to poorly written communications.
Tom Pisello, ITBusinessEdge.com, 12/2008
In 2007, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, such as writing reports or computer code, after dealing with incoming email. They wandered off to reply to other messages or browse the Web.
New York Times, 3/25/2007
15% of Americans say they are addicted to email.
59% of those using portable devices check email as it arrives.
43% of users sleep near their email unit to hear incoming messages.
40% consider email accessibility when they plan a trip.
83% check their email once a day while on vacation.
43% check their email first thing every morning.
AOL, Opinion Research Corp., study 7/26/07
**The above stats are from Key Organization Systems.
The above stats show that we have a hard time leaving work behind with the increasing availability of e-mail and phones that allow us to browse the internet easier than ever. Even when we are at work we aren't as productive as we can be because we allow ourselves to be constantly interrupted. Take the stat above from Microsoft. It took on average 15 minutes to get back on track after an interruption. If you are interrupted just once/hour, that's 2 hours/day of lost productivity.
Another area that multitasking hurts our productivity is in the area of concentration on long tasks. CNN had an article on this a couple of months back that stated that heavy multimedia users and multitaskers had a harder time staying focused on longer, intense projects because they are more easily distracted by irrelevant information. As a business owner, focusing on intense projects is a must if you are going to work on your business and build it the way that you need to.
Work aside, another group that gets affected by multitasking is the family. Parents have a hard time leaving their work behind especially on vacation. They are constantly “checking in” to make sure they didn't miss anything. Let's be honest about this. Nobody's job is that important. Yet, we would like to think that it is and we want those around us to think that it is too. It's like were a bunch of mini Ron Burgundys running around. I mean, I don't know how to tell you this but I' m kind of a big deal. Therefore, I will only listen to half of what you tell me, the least important half, while I spend the entire conversation texting someone else. Because look at me, I am the Chief Implementation Associate at Rubber Dog Shit Inc. People need me.
If you are a business owner and can't step away from your business for a few days, it's time to work on developing your team as well systems and processes that will allow you some freedom from the business. Many people site work/life balance as being important to them yet few will allow themselves that opportunity when they refuse to be present in the moment.
Just because you are in the same room as your family doesn't mean that you are actually with them.
Beyond family, research has shown that taking real breaks are good for your health as well. Trying to work and take a vacation doesn't make sense does it? I'm pretty sure it doesn't qualify as a vacation if you are calling your office every day. Taking a stand against multitasking may help you live longer and healthier.
Maybe we just think we are more important than we really are. Maybe it's just the pressure we put on ourselves to be the best. Sometimes the best thing to do is to do less. Americans haven't quite figured that skill out yet. Take a look at your work day. How you can you restructure what you are doing and what behaviors can you change to be more productive? What effort can you make to ensure that you are creating the appropriate balance for yourself with regards to your work life and your personal life. So as I was writing this, I missed the end of CSI which is a bummer, it looked like a good episode, wait, hold on I have another call coming through. Hold that thought. I need to take this.