Contact Us

5 REALLY BIG Pitfalls of Multitasking

  • By Andrea Schlapia
  • |
  • January 6, 2015

5 REALLY BIG Pitfalls of Multitasking

Guilty as charged! In the past I’ve been a master multitasker, or so I thought. I could answer a phone call, respond to an email, and dabble on a project simultaneously. I was satisfied that I could work on several projects at once. I felt efficient and productive. In reality, the quality of my work was compromised.

Many of us, employers included, praise the team member who touts their multitasking abilities. We perceive that having the ability to do several things at one time is a positive trait. My hope is that after you read this post, you will have a better understanding of the downsides of multitasking, the cost to your bottom line, and be able to lead your team to performance improvement.

Take a look at 5 of my favorite finds on the pitfalls of multitasking:

  1. Multitasking Lowers IQ

    My favorite statistic on multitasking comes from a study done by the University of London. The study found that “people who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines similar to what they would find if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night. IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child.” If you think the multitasker on your team is a superhero, think again.

  2. Multitasking Lowers EQ – Emotional Intelligence

    Dr. Travis Bradberry; co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and President at TalentSmart, tells us that “multitasking in meetings or other social settings indicates low self- and social-awareness, two emotional intelligence (EQ) skills that are critical to success at work. TalentSmart has tested more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers have high EQs.” Read his full article here.

  1. Multitasking Slows You Down

    Most multitaskers think they are saving time; when in fact, it will take you longer to finish the projects you are jumping back and forth on instead of focusing on one at a time. Research shows that switching between tasks reduces productivity by up to 40 percent. You really aren’t multitasking, you are task-switching. Your attention moves to the act of switching tasks rather than being focused on the current task. Assign a time frame to complete each item on your to-do list and avoid distractions at all costs.

  1. Multitasking Increases Stress Levels

    Think a few quick peeks at email while working on other activities won’t lower your performance? Researchers at the University of California Irvine measured the heart rates of employees with and without constant access to email. The results – employees with a flow of email notifications and messages stayed in constant “high alert” mode and had higher heart rates than those who prevented email interruptions.

    The researchers reported that it’s not only the physical act of multitasking that causes stress, it’s the consequences. Performance is reduced and mistakes are made – which in turn; triggers stress, lowers self-esteem, and can contribute to depression.

  1. Multitasking = Mistakes

    Multitasking increases your chances of making mistakes and missing important information according to Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, a book from Harvard Health Publications. Instead of multitasking, they suggest set shifting. “This means consciously and completely shifting your attention from one task to the next, and focusing on the task at hand. Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility.” To learn more about Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, visit the Harvard Health Publications website.

Multitasking comes with costs. Make it a priority to talk with your team about the power of focus and lead them to healthy habits, improved organization, and time management with these ideas:

  • Turn off email notifications. Set scheduled times to check and respond to emails.
  • Create a daily task management system. Complete the most difficult task first thing in the morning rather than working on bits and pieces throughout the day.
  • Practice set shifting. Consciously shift your attention from one task to the next.
  • Use timeboxing techniques. Work in 30 to 50 minute intervals with 5-minute breaks. Decrease or increase your time intervals depending on the task. You will accomplish more than you think when you work in time intervals without distractions.
  • Keep a journal of activities that cause distraction and identify solutions to manage them.

Hats off to you as you master unitasking!

The foundation of our Performance Coaching and Consulting Programs are based on Ironstone’s Fundamental 4, which is essential to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Our ultimate goal is to help you avoid trial and error; shifting your mindset to launch your process of intentional change. [LEARN MORE]

Photo credit: ©iStock/Getty Images

Are you just getting by or are you getting better? Get started today!

Author Bio

Andrea Schlapia, RCC™, HCS, sHRBP, is the Founder and CEO of Ironstone, which represents the culmination of her 20+ year career within the financial services industry. Her experience began as a financial advisor evolving into a consultant coach for advisors entering the field. This ignited her passion to support others through learning and development of best practices in order to achieve substantial results. To this end, she followed her desire into positions of senior-level practice management specialists for Dreyfus, Prudential, and DWS Investments prior to the realization of Ironstone.  Andrea’s focus is on practice management strategies to enhance and improve both business and personal life. Andrea identifies 4 key performance areas known as the Fundamental 4™, which are required to design, develop, and sustain a successful business. Through coaching sessions and speaking engagements, she captivates her audience with interactive, high-energy presentations which are built with “how-to” strategies resulting in real-world implementation for significant impact. Andrea has been featured in multiple publications and audio broadcasts as a specialist and distinguished spokeswoman in the financial industry.