3 Reasons Multitasking is Still a Valuable Business Skill

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 7:27 PM EST


In honor of counterintuitive business advice week, I thought it would be interesting to return to something we discussed a few weeks ago. Recently, I explained a few reasons you could improve your productivity by giving up multitasking.

There's clear evidence that the human brain isn't wired to do several things at once, and trying to do so has the effect of dropping your IQ by 10 points -- or making you work like you've lost an entire night's sleep.

I heard from more than a few folks who insisted that despite the scientific evidence, they really can multitask well. I'm dubious, but in their honor, here are 3 genuine business reasons to multitask, even if doing so is somewhat less productive on balance than single-tasking.


1. Multitasking keeps you from blocking other people. If you are a committed singletasker, you run the risk of bringing others to a screeching halt while they wait for you to eventually get around to answering their questions so they can complete their own projects. You got your own task done in record time though, so... kudos.

2. Multitasking gives you something to do when you get stuck. Hit a brick wall? Switch projects for a while, then come back to your problem with a fresh perspective.

3. Multitasking is an essential business skill. Especially as you rise higher in the org chart. As the Harvard Business Review puts it, "If I'm painting my house, and I'm on a ladder, I've got to keep on that one task. But if I'm the general contractor, I need to stay on top of the house painter, the carpenter, the electrician, and the guy swinging that big ball on the end of a giant chain."

Photo by ryantron