To Get More Done Stop Multitasking.
The most valuable employees in the workplace are not necessarily the ones who seem busiest, send the most e-mail or go to the most meetings. In fact, while the activity level is high the accomplishment level is generally low. If that seems counterintuitive you are not alone. I did not buy this either, but science and physiology have shown the way of our errors. It turns out that the human brain was not meant to focus on more than a single thing at a time and that it is virtually impossible to do so.
Workplace and scientific studies demonstrate that humans are not able to do more than a single task at a time because of the way the brain is engineered. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain used for focus and attention. The brain will pay attention to what it perceives is the most important. That is not to say that we cannot chew gum and walk at the same time, but those activities do not occur in the prefrontal cortex. But we are not able to give our full attention to more than a single thing. So those who are multitasking are essentially doing more than one thing a time very poorly. Overall, this is very bad for a lot reasons.
What You Missed At The Meeting
Those who multitask at meetings are likely to miss whatever it was they were called to the meeting for and will end up asking about a topic that was already covered, thus wasting their time in the meeting and the time of the person whom they must ask. If someone is bored while at a meeting or not interested in the subject matter then they should probably not even be there.
Banned From Meetings
It is not uncommon for leaders to ban multitasking from meeting and to send offenders packing. “t’s not only unproductive, it is incredibly rude and disrespectful of the other people in the meeting to divide your attention. “f there is something you need to do that is really that important, better to excuse yourself from the meeting than be asked to leave.
Your Brain On Multitasking
When multitasking the brain is split. Instead of getting the full frontal cortex that uses both sides of the brain, we only get half of it. When focused on a single task, more gets done. That is why the best coaches ask teams to focus, to get more done sooner. Humans are more successful when focused where multitasking goes against human design. This is not the fault of the brain, the brain’s owner or creator. No, but it is a failure of the workplace.
Counting The Wrong Thing
So why do leaders and their followers persist in this counter-productive activity? Easy. Because they are rewarded for it. The workplace is now comprised of knowledge workers. But measures of success have not kept pace. Our metrics date back to the industrial age when the number of buggy whips we turned out, cars that were made or acres plowed were what mattered. No one uses buggy whips any more, cars are made in Asia and farms are kept by high tech machinery. Business and industry need to start measuring innovation, customer satisfaction, and time to market. Those are measures from the knowledge age that are relevant and important. Not the number of meetings one attends.