A few weeks ago I was interviewing a candidate for an important office position for one of my clients. I asked the person to describe their strengths.
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One of the first answers out of their mouth was, “I’m really good at multi-tasking.”
When you hear that, what's your first response?
Mine used to be a very positive one. After all, we live in a high-demand, fast-paced, globally-connected world. Who wouldn’t want someone who is a great multitasker on their team?
But the science is increasingly making clear the dangers of multitasking. Studies are showing that multitasking actually impairs our cognitive ability and reduces the speed with which we are able to accomplish tasks.
That means a remarkable decrease in the quality and quantity of output from those who are “heavy multitaskers.” Professor Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, Rules for Focused Work in a Distracted World, tells us that even a glance at another media stream creates what he calls “attention residue,” which can significantly decrease cognitive ability for 10-20 minutes.
As he put it, heavy multitaskers are regularly “working with a serious, self-imposed cognitive handicap.” When we’re multitasking we’re actually shooting ourselves in the foot. How do you feel about it now?
A New Economy
For many of us, who are increasingly involved in a “knowledge work” economy, this could be disastrous. In this type of economy Newport states that there are two core abilities that are needed in order to thrive: 1) The ability to quickly master hard things and 2) The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed.
Unfortunately, with the rise of multitasking, many of us are operating from a place of severe disadvantage and deficit that we’ve brought upon ourselves.
Here are three specific ways that multitasking is killing our ability to thrive.