Thursday, January 19, 2006

Multitasking my Ass!

Holy smokes! A real post! Anyway... a while back I posted a rant on multitasking. ACM recently sent out an article called Multitasking: Attention at Half Mast that dovetails nicely. Some key passages:

"It became a management fad and it sounds great if you've got an ever-increasing workload to try to do two things at once but, in fact, it turns out you're getting less done overall," Toronto career coach Robert Steinbach says.

"When you're dividing your attention on two tasks, you're not really present for either."

In fact, by trying to do two things at once, you're really compressing the amount of information your brain can access for either task.

That's backed up by a study last April of 1,000 office workers, commissioned by Hewlett-Packard Co., which found the distraction of checking e-mail or text messaging while doing another task can cause someone's IQ to drop between 5 and 15 per cent.

What's the task-switching cost?

The real problem in multitasking "is resuming work after a distraction," adds Dave Crisp, president of leadership coaching company Crisp Strategies Inc. in Toronto.

Without a strategy for recalling what you have done, you'll end up wasting a lot of time retracing your steps to get back on track, he says.

That can mean hours lost every day, conclude researchers Victor Gonzalez and Gloria Mark in the computer science school at the University of California at Irvine.

Following 36 corporate technology and finance employees in Southern California through typical office work days, they found that workers could seldom go more than 11 minutes before being interrupted by a phone call, urgent e-mail or discussion with a colleague they tried to handle at the same time.

But once their focus was shifted, it took them an average of 25 minutes to get back on track with the original task.

The researchers calculated that interruptions that require a shift of focus consume an average of 2.1 hours of every working day, or 28 per cent of the average person's routine, according to their report, published in September.

As Zippy might say: YOW! As PSan might say: Santa-ma-bitch!

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