OK, admit it: You’re not just reading this blog right now. You’re probably also glancing at a few other applications on your desktop, maybe talking on the phone or perhaps even sitting in the middle of a meeting.
The latest issue of the McKinsey Quarterly has some advice for you: Stop it.
“Always on, multitasking work environments are killing productivity, dampening creativity and making us unhappy,” the piece declares.
While this warning is very timely in our highly interconnected world, authors Derek Dean and Caroline Webb note that it is not at all new. Their article cites Peter Drucker’s 1967 book The Effective Executive, which warned of the looming dangers of attention fragmentation that can result from multitasking.
[EXPAND More]“There was Mozart, of course,” Drucker wrote. “He could, it seems, work on several compositions at the same time, all of them masterpieces. But he is the only known exception. The other prolific composers of the first rank – Bach, for instance, Handel, or Haydn, or Verdi – composed one work at a time. They did not begin the next until they had finished the preceding one, or until they had stopped work on it for the time being and put it away in the drawer. Executives can hardly assume that they are ‘executive Mozarts.’”
To preserve maximum effectiveness, Drucker advised, executives actually needed to embed solutions such as carving out blocks of calendar time, ignoring the phone, and returning calls in short bursts once or twice a day.
Drucker understood 40 years ago what science is now proving. One study mentioned by Dean and Webb describes the delay in the brain’s ability to complete tasks if they’re attempted simultaneously. Another study also suggests that the practice of multitasking can actually cause anxiety and addictive behavior due to the repetitive release of dopamine, similar to what happens when one uses drugs.
So, how guilty are you of multitasking?[/EXPAND]