The ways in which we work are vastly different to five, ten and definitely twenty years ago. As we grow an extra limb to enable extra social media and technology time, the question that begs to be asked is: should we stop taking on multiple jobs and just sit and complete one at a time? Is multitasking really a prominent issue within society?
But how bad can it be if we have been multitasking our entire lives? Walking and talking, eating and watching TV but as scientist John Medina researched the effects of multitasking on the brain within a work environment. He found that multitaskers experience a 40% drop in productivity, they take 50% longer to accomplish a single task and make 50% more errors. This is due to our short-term “memory can only store between five and nine things at once” (Merrill, 2012) and that includes thinking about what you are going to cook for dinner.
Speaking of dinner, one of the long held beliefs is that women are able to multitask better than men due to “instincts” (Merrill, 2012) but in actual fact, “women suffer as much as men when forced to multitask and are less inclined to multitask when given the choice” (Buser & Peter 2012, p.641).
But when we look at multitasking with technology, the prevalence of watching, listening, talking and consuming is remarkably higher than I first thought.
A 2013 Nielsen report found that “three-quarters of viewers multitask with two sets of content while watching television” (Bowles 2014). That is unbelievable! I must admit that I am absolutely shocking when it comes to multitasking – my phone is switched off whilst working and when the news is on, that is my soul focus. But my sister on the other hand, is naturally good at multitasking as you can see here:
Yes, she is texting, checking Facebook via her iPad and watching the news and then continues on to talk to me – level: expert multitasker.
An interesting research paper by Benitez et al (2012) examines if there are generational differences in multitasking skills between what they class as Baby Boomers born between 1946 – 1964, GenX born between 1965 – 1979 and NetGen which is anyone born 1980 – present. The report found that the “younger generations report lower difficulty ratings when multitasking and multitask more than the older generations.”
But my conclusion is that multitasking is detrimental to many aspects of our lives. Is our inability to sit and complete one task at a time, why we see so many reports on people more stressed, overwhelmed and overworked? I think so as we are finding it increasingly harder to turn off as we have not completed the day’s work hence why we are bringing it home with us. What do you think?
Benitez, S, Carrier, L.M, Chang, J, Cheever, N.A, Rosen, L.D, 2008, ‘Multitasking across generations: Multitasking choices and difficulty ratings in three generations of Americans’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 25, issue 2, pp. 483–489, viewed 13 September, http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0747563208002033
Bowles, K 2014, ‘Week 7: The problem of multitasking’, lecture notes, BCM240 Media, Audience and Place, Wollongong University, 8 September, viewed 13 September, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/287393/mod_resource/content/1/BCM240%202014%20week%207.pdf
Buser, T, Peter, N, 2012, ‘Multitasking’, Experimental Economics, vol. 15, issue 4, pp. 641 – 655, viewed 13 September, http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/article/10.1007%2Fs10683-012-9318-8