Millennials are born to multitask. With the world right at their fingertips through smart phones and tablets, this generation has mastered how to use multiple apps, devices and communication channels to multitask all day long. But is this common habit really beneficial to your workday? Contrary to popular belief, multitasking should not be done in the workplace! Here’s why:
Why do most people multitask? Because they want to get things done and be less stressed out at work. However, constantly interrupting your work to switch your attention to something else actually causes cognitive overload and leads to a more stressful mindset. Even though you think multitasking allows you to reduce stress by knocking things off your to-do list, you’re actually working against yourself by doing it.
Think you’re saving yourself more time by working on multiple tasks at once? Not the case! Every time you stop what you’re doing to work on another task, you lose seconds, or even minutes. This may not seem like much, but in reality, it is estimated that multitasking can lead to up to a 40% loss of your productivity per day. Not only are you costing your company time that could have been better spent on focusing on one task, you’re also wasting your own valuable time! Instead, create a to-do list arranged by importance of each task. Start at the top and focus on one thing at a time without moving from it until it has reached completion. Once you finish each task, feel free to check emails and voicemails before diving into the next item on your list.
Multitasking means you’re dividing your attention between a number of different tasks, leaving you more likely to cause errors no matter the simplicity of the task at hand. This is especially true of tasks that require close attention to detail which are already prone to human error. Are you on a conference call with distributors while also entering inventory numbers into the system? Double check those numbers because chances are, you probably inverted a few digits without evening knowing it.
Millennials love to come up with innovative ideas, but being a multitasker means you might have to say goodbye to this creative process. Why? Research shows that multitasking uses up the working memory since the brain is trying to cram in information from a number of different tasks all at once. Because people need space in their working memory in order to think creatively, day dream or generate fresh ideas, multitasking shuts this process down so you can focus on getting tasks done. If you work in a creative role within your company, shut your email down when it comes time to brainstorm so you can let your mind wander and come up with new ideas.
There may be some hope for all of you Millennial multitaskers after all. There are certain times when multitasking works, but only when the two tasks activate different parts of your brain, leaving your head feeling less overwhelmed and foggy. A great example is to multitask by getting in your exercise and commuting at the same time by skipping the traffic and taking a bike ride to work in the morning. Or, bring your iPad with you to catch up on industry articles while you walk on the treadmill or hit the elliptical after work. No matter what you choose, pick tasks that don’t overwork the same part of your brain and you’ll finally have mastered the right (and only) way to multitask in life.
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