Multitasking – Why Managers Must Avoid the Trap

Multitasking – Why Managers Must Avoid the Trap

By, Stephen Andrews, Senior Vice President, (@stevebandrews)

How many times each week or each day does someone annoyingly chime in something along the lines of, “You’ll just need to multitask?” For me, it hits one of those big red buttons in my psyche right next to the one labeled, “Work hard – play hard.

My personal dislikes aside, multitasking has become a mantra for managers simply overwhelmed by the volume of work tasks faced by their companies. It’s a cop out and highlights an individual manager’s inability to properly manage their employees’ workloads and only serves to hide this incompetence or worse and more often, keep a bad business model limping along. After all why not simply use one train on the subway line instead of hundreds, it can multitask. How long would any of us put up with that solution to our morning commutes.

None of this is new, back in early 18th Century Lord Chesterfield gave the following advice to his son and heir, “There is enough time for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you do two things at a time.” And research indicates nothing has changes since the Victorian era. In fact, a recent study from Stanford found that multitaskers do not pay attention to information, control their memories or switch from one task o another as well as their singularly focused counterparts.

The Stanford study brings ill tidings for the social media gurus among us, pointing out that multiple streams of information, e-mail, Twitter, Facebook and the like, caused study participants to become what researchers termed, “Suckers for irrelevant information and easily distracted.” In each test the heavy multitasker group was outperformed by those who focus on bringing a single task to completion.

The message here for managers looking to increase productivity and efficiency is: help your staff manage their time and tackle one task at a time.
1 Comment
  • Estraven

    October 25, 2009 at 8:40 pm Reply

    You are quite correct. Research shows that the human brain is not capable of multi-tasking, despite all the myths to the contrary.

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