Multitasking – Are We Really Getting More Done?


Multitasking was even back in the 1740’s when Lord Chesterfield wrote about doing more than one thing at once in his infamous letters to his son. What would he think if he were here today with the technology to do more than 2 things at once?


Multitasking Morning

I have been wondering this in the mornings recently as I get ready for work after being on the computer here for a few hours. I sometimes am checking tweets, Facebook or Google+ as I am brushing my teeth and drying my hair. Am I doing all or either effectively? Would it take less time if I were to do one thing at a time? The word multitasking comes from the computer engineering industry. It refers to the ability of a microprocessor to apparently process several tasks simultaneously. Are we really wired like computers?

In 2005, the BBC reported on a research study, funded by Hewlett-Packard and conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, that found, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” The psychologist who led the study called this new “infomania” a serious threat to workplace productivity. The study further found that excessive use of technology reduced workers intelligence. And an actual 10% fall in their IQ!

If you constantly break away from tasks to react to email or text messages you may suffer similar effects on the mind as losing a night’s sleep. And we all know how a night without sleep can wreak havoc on our bodies both mentally and physically.

Multitasking also has an impact on our learning. If you are trying to learn something new and are multitasking you are not as likely to be able to retrieve the information as easily.  A study at the University of California showed brain scans of people who are distracted or multitasking show activity in the striatum, a region of the brain involved in learning new skills; brain scans of people who are not distracted show activity in the hippocampus, a region involved in storing and recalling information. Researchers believe humans are not meant to work this way. They believe we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient.

Let’s try an experiment and see if we can do one task at a time for a day. Here is what we can look for:

  • Did we get more done?
  • Did we have less errors?
  • Did we feel less stressed?
  • Did we learn more?

Will you join me in this multitasking experiment for a day? And what will you be looking for?

Lord Chesterfield Quote

Lisa loves helping others to thrive online through Content Marketing with Social Media, Blogging and SEO. What good is knowledge if you cannot share it with others? She has 20+ years experience in marketing/advertising with 6 years experience in content marketing, social media, blogging and SEO. Check out her latest eBook "Learn to Tweet and Thrive on Twitter" now on Amazon.

13 comments On Multitasking – Are We Really Getting More Done?

  • Hi Rahman – I find sometimes I do concentrate better when I do one thing at a time unless I get bored than I need that added stimulation to get things done.
    Lisa recently posted..What Will The Google Changes Mean To You?My Profile

  • It seems that multitasking has been forced upon us as we don’t enjoy several things we’re doing simultaneously. I personally enjoy and love doing things one at a time. The capability is there and I can do a few things at a time, but I could never call it some enjoyable activity. Besides, you don’t get things done more efficiently either. So, what’s the catch? your employer may like you do 1000 things together!

    Rahman Mehraby
    Travel Marketing Blog

  • Lisa, I have a hard time trying to multitask, therefore I do my best to avoid it whenever possible. If we take now for a moment, the house is full of noise (basketball game and kid’s talking). Not that I’m actively watching or listening to either of the two, but my brain is working overtime trying to focus on commenting to you.

    The best case scenario for me is to work in silence and without distractions (I.e., Email notifications, visitors, telephone ringing, music, or television). When multitasking, everything takes longer, expends more energy, and generally more stressful.

    That’s just me.
    Damond Nollan recently posted..C3 Church: Imagine Celebration WeekendMy Profile

    • Hi Damond, I’m starting to agree with you; I always loved to multitask but of late it’s been super multitasking and that’s just too much. We have more things to juggle and multitask with causing overload. Thanks for coming by.
      Lisa recently posted..What’s With All The Spam?My Profile

  • Hi Lisa,

    I have more or less stopped multitasking, and I have started to use the pomodoro technique to be more focused and get more done. This works great for me 🙂
    Jens P. Berget recently posted..This Made Me ReThink My Business InvestmentsMy Profile

  • I often wonder this myself. Good points!
    candice recently posted..Saturday’s Top 5 Laughs!My Profile

  • I don’t think we’re getting more important things done, I think, at least for myself, I’ve added more things to my list. Social networking stuff added to the normally important work and family duties. I try to cut back and get sucked back in. Argh! Great post!
    Brenda Lee recently posted..Flashback Friday!My Profile

  • I admire you Lisa 🙂 Here you reveal interesting points. Human body itself do multi-tasking. But it doesn’t mean we are born to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. It’s directly connected with attributes of people and situational. Some people good at multi-tasking and some are not. If you are think of being a multi-tasker, you can adapt your skills. But there are limitations. All tasks are not multitaskable. And all multitaskable tasks are not suite for all. Personally, I think I’m sort of multi-tasker for some extent ’cause I’m adapted my skills to perform multiple tasks. We use technology to make things easier for us. But it can stab your back if you addicted or if you don’t manage them well.

    BTW I have few answers for your experiment from my point of view and experiences,

    Did we get more done?

    Well, we can get more done if we got enough skills, concentration and organized them well but not strictly to the time. We human beings are not machines and need relaxation for our body and minds. Else it will affect in long-term and could be waste of time.

    Did we have less errors?

    Multitasking possibly cause high rate of errors. I experienced that myself. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do that again. If we practiced enough, we can overcome erroneous rate. However best, effective and safer way is single task at a time.

    Did we feel less stressed?

    Absolutely not. Even we practiced enough, multitasking occurs increase of stress ’cause there is tendancy to things go wrong or to be less effective.

    Did we learn more?

    We can learn more if our tasks doesn’t interfere each other. For example, studying and checking out Facebook together won’t help in studying. But personally, studying and listening to music has great influence on me to study long hours.

    Mayura recently posted..How to Generate a QR Code with Kaywa QR-Code GeneratorMy Profile

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