The term multitasking is perhaps the best word we can use to describe our modus operandi - at work and at play. Multi-tasking, the ability to perform multiple tasks simultaneously has become a way of life in modern society. We all know people who wear their ability to multi-task as a badge of honor. They sit down to write a blog while checking their emails, responding to a text, reading the newsfeed while listening to a podcast, all at the same time. Sound familiar? Of course it does; we all multi-task to a different extent at some point throughout the course of our day. Otherwise, we argue, how could we possibly accomplish everything that needs to get done?
You might want to pause the next time you begin to write that important work document while reading your emails and checking your texts. Recent scientific research suggests we may be paying a very high price for multi-tasking, in both our professional and personal lives. According a study done by the University of California, Irvine, it takes workers an average of twenty-five minutes to regain focus after having been distracted from emails, phone calls, etc. Business research analyst Jonathan B. Spira of Basex found that multi-tasking costs the U.S. economy over $650 billion dollars annually in lost productivity due to significant time lost when workers are constantly switching back and forth between different tasks. Contrary to what many of us believe, Stanford University research revealed that we are less productive when multi-tasking than we would be if we did one thing at a time.
Multi-tasking negatively impacts our ability to learn. According to Dr. Russell Poldrack, a psychology professor at UCLA: "Even if you learn while multi-tasking, that learning is less flexible and more specialized, so you cannot retrieve the information as easily." Retained learning is fueled by the ability to focus and mutli-tasking, by definition, drives us to distraction.
As a relationship "soft skills" expert, the most disconcerting negative effect multi-tasking has may be that it actually lowers your Emotional Intelligence (E.Q)! Texting while in a work meeting, and reading an email during a conversation with our spouse and/or friend(s), suggests low levels of self-awareness and social awareness - two critical aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Research consistently demonstrates that successful people exhibit high EQ - and multi-tasking actually appears to demonstrate a less than optimal EQ! As more and more research continues to support this finding, you might want to think twice before multi-tasking again!
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