Can you REALLY do more than one task at a time?

Multi-tasking has become a way of life. In fact, many productivity experts teach multi-tasking as a strategy to accomplish more in a day.  The “new” generation has turned multi-tasking into an art form.

The latest research states that it can take up to 15 minutes to regain your “flow” when your attention is pulled away from an activity.  When we are doing two tasks at once, we continually need to switch our focus from one activity to another, thus breaking our flow.  Because our brains work so quickly, you may think the transition is seamless, however, in reality our brains are disengaging in task 1, engaging in task 2, acting in task 2, then disengaging in task 2, lather, rinse, and repeat.  Each switch takes time.  In fact – this morning I read an article that it can take up to 4 times as long to complete tasks when multi-tasking than when doing each task separately.

So, common practice is to multi-task, research supports concentrating on one task at a time. What should you do?  

My answer – it depends!

The more important the activity, the more focused attention it deserves. I believe it is acceptable to work on two low detail &/or minimal thinking activities at the same time.  For example, create hostess packets and watch TV, or check in with your team members and take a walk, or make dinner and clip coupons.

Where is multi-tasking not ideal? Talking on the phone and checking email – usually neither correspondence is handled well.  (The person you are speaking with KNOWS they don’t have your attention – and you will need to rewrite the email anyway!)  Creating a new booking script and entering sales tickets as both tasks require thinking and attention to detail.  Watching a training video on the new products and coaching future hostesses.  (You probably won’t retain ANY of the new product information!)

The next time you are tempted to do two tasks at once, consider the value you place on the accuracy of both tasks.  Then decide if you want to multi-task or not!

I’d love to know your thoughts – please post below!