To multitask or not to multitask… that is the question.
When trying to be as productive as you possibly can, whether or not you should multitask is an important question that can be tough to answer. On the one hand, multitasking is something that in theory should be very useful – the ability to get more than one job done at once could in theory allow you to work through your tasks for the day in half the time. On the other hand however, multitasking hasn’t fared particularly well in studies about it. In these studies it has generally been found that we work better when we focus on one task and then move on to the next. This of course is because focusing on a single task allows us to get into a state of ‘flow’ or uninterrupted focus, whereas continuously switching between tasks means you’re not able to ‘settle in’ to any one type of work. Furthermore, the act of switching from one project to another can drain time and mental energy.
Finally, studies suggest that the human brain can never ‘truly’ multitask in the sense that we imagine. Rather the best we can hope for is to switch sequentially from one task to another.
Situations Where Multitasking Works
But that said, there are some scenarios where it’s actually useful to multitask. One example of this is when carrying out anything that requires monotonous work rather than focus and attention/creative thinking. For example, if you have to stuff envelopes then there’s really no reason not to do this while doing something else as long as you don’t need to use your hands. Likewise, when driving or even when doing creative things like drawing you can potentially use the other faculties of your brain to do something else such as listening to podcasts or catching up on phone calls.
In these cases, one of the best forms of multitasking is to use a hands-free kit and make calls. If your job requires you to make lots of calls, then a hands-free kit can provide you with great multitasking opportunities and potentially save you hours of time to be more productive. Don’t have a ‘menial’ job you can carry out while you talk? Then look at things you can do to make work later on in the day easier.
Similarly, situations in which you have to wait for anything can also provide ample opportunities to multitask. If you’re kept on hold for instance, or if you’re waiting for something to load, then you should be able to fit other jobs in those slots.
In a nutshell, jobs requiring thought pair well with jobs which don’t require concentration.
In those cases, multitasking can truly be a productivity bonus!