Research on Multitasking at Work

As we all try to constantly improve ourselves, take some time to read through some of these thoughts from 4 articles on multitasking.

Article 1: Multitasking Hurts Performance

This is just one example of many studies dating back to the 1920’s that show that our performance suffers while multitasking.
“In every test, students who spent less time simultaneously reading e-mail, surfing the web, talking on the phone and watching TV performed best.“These are all very standard tasks in psychology,” said Nass. “In the first, there’s lots of evidence that if people do poorly, they have trouble ignoring irrelevant information. For the second task, there are many demonstrations that this is a good reflection of people’s ability to organize things in their working memory. The third task shows how fast and readily people switch from doing one thing to another.”
Article 2: We Are Bad At It

I know this doesn’t apply to YOU because you are a great multitasker. Somewhere is the nonsense “three Stanford University researchers offers perhaps the most surprising result: those who consider themselves to be great multitaskers are in fact the worst multitaskers.

Article 3: Exactly How it Takes Time and Hurts Performance

This helps us understand exactly how context switching and multitasking eat away at our day with some good visuals and real life scenarios.

“The more information you have to keep in short term memory, the harder it is to get back to the level of high performance.”

A real life example where the black represents the time it takes back to the same level of production as before the interruption.

The author also recognizes the down side of focusing on one thing when you have multiple responsibilities.
“The one downside to understanding context switching is that it tends to make me late for things. While I’m in the thick of debugging some code, I sometimes notice that I need to be somewhere soon. Realizing that it will take much more time to get to my current state if I stop now, I just keep on coding until I can get to a good mental stopping point. It’s great if you don’t want to waste time but it’s never fun being late.”

Article 4: Little Changes to Make it Better

Shorter article, but at the end gives suggestions for more efficient work styles.

Making these changes by yourself can make a big impact. Making some changes as a group can fundamentally change our world for the better. How about having a specified blog of time each day that is designated for no IM?


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