Last Updated Oct 8, 2009 8:28 PM EDT
But the question is: Does this multitasking mindset affect the quality of our work? Though I know plenty of people who boast about being able to compose the perfect email while carrying on a telephone conversation and eating their lunch at the same time, new research says that multitasking may lead us nowhere fast.
According to research conducted by Stanford professors Eyal Ophir, Clifford Nass and Anthony Wagner, multitaskers fall short of their non-multitasking peers in three key areas:
- Filtering out irrelevant details: In an experiment, the researchers asked participants to ignore certain pieces of data. The non-jugglers had no problem following this instruction, while the multitaskers could not filter out this information and, as a result, performed poorly.
- Remembering information: Of an experiment asking people to remember a sequence of letters, Ophir said in a Stanford press release, "The low multitaskers did great. The high multitaskers were doing worse and worse the further they went along because they kept seeing more letters and had difficulty keeping them sorted in their brains."
- Switching between tasks: Though this is what multitasking is all about, those who do so regularly have trouble focusing on the purpose and information associated with each discreet undertaking. Said Ophir, "They couldn't help thinking about the task they weren't doing. They can't keep things separate in their minds."
Either way, it seemed like a good idea to shut off the television and logout from my email as I finished writing this, though I'm sure I'll be tempted to multitask again in the near future. Where do you stand on multitasking: is it an important skill to have in today's fast-paced workplace, or simply a way of ensuring that we don't perform up to our potentials?
Image courtesy of Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, CC 2.0