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Is multitasking killing your productivity?

By Madhura Sansare
November 19, 2015 14:02 IST
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In a world as hurried as ours, multitasking is a must. But is it really helping us at all? Or is it slowing us down?

Here are some pointers to help you make a decision.

Is multitasking really effective?

We live in a fast-pace world.

Fashion changes every season, viral videos don't stay viral for more than a week, and you can't even miss one without facing consequences.

At the same time, there are jobs to be completed, friends to be maintained, family to be taken care of, studies to be kept on track, social media to be followed.

Even the mere idea of performing one task at one time seems outrageous to an individual from this generation.

With the large plethora of tasks at hand in a day-to-day life, how in the world is anyone supposed to fit it all in a 24-hour day?

It is for this reason that the concept of multitasking has become the norm today.

It is highly unlikely that you will ever see someone just doing one task at a time. And it's not just our generation any more.

Look up to your mothers for a second.

They do everything you're doing, and manage to take care of a job and a home, all at the same time. But is this really helping?

Is multitasking as effective and essential as we as a society believe it to be? 

We've always heard that whenever we're stuck in a problem, make a list.

A list is supposed to make it simpler. And that is exactly what we did.

The Pros

Finish up simple tasks at once

We have a lot of small tasks to perform every day.

Cooking, cleaning, checking up on your social media, listening to music -- none of these are too taxing to the brain.

Clubbing them all together instead of setting apart time for each one of them just makes more sense.

Break the monotony

It is very easy to get bored while performing one task at a time.

Multitasking helps you avoid just that.

By multitasking, you can include a variety of different activities in your daily life instead of having to do them at seldom intervals.

Develop ability to cope with external chaos 

It's a chaotic life, especially if you're a city-dweller.

Try to remember the last time your surroundings were absolutely silent. Yeah that's right.

Multitasking develops that much required ability to deal with interruptions and distractions, helping you cope with your constant chaotic backdrop.

Progress on multiple tasks 

When you have a full black book, it always feels better to know all your tasks are dealt with to a certain extent.

Multitasking provides you with the comfort of having progressed on all of you tasks, instead of just having finished one and having a long list left bare.

Stay flexible 

In today's technologically wired society, multitasking provides an ability to use multiple technologies simultaneously, which in turn promises to keep people of all ages adaptable, relevant and employable.

The Cons

Slowed progress  

It is harder to shift between two tasks that require a deeper level of concentration.

Research says switching slows down progress. It's like when you have two word documents open on your computer.

It just takes longer to minimise one to work on the other before minimising the second one to go back to the first.

Results in divided attention 

Dividing or fractionising your attention leads to a significant decrease in not just productivity, but also in the quality of completed work.

Decrease in cognitive ability 

Your brain is after all just a muscle.

Multitasking is exactly like taking your brain to the gym; do it enough and it will help, but stress it too much, and you are going to tire it out eventually.

The disruption side-effect 

Though multitasking helps your ability to deal with distractions, sometimes, that's not such a good thing.

A ringing phone in the middle of an assignment poses a threat of disrupting your train of thought, making it much harder to get back to work.

Busywork problems 

Multitasking can more often than not result in a phenomenon well known as busywork -- basically a situation that frequently occurs where you feel very busy and you feel like you're doing a lot of things, but nothing is actually getting accomplished. 

So what should be the final outcome?

Should we or should we not multitask? Well, we made a list. We'll leave the decision up to you.

Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: Artur Chalyj/Creative Commons

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Madhura Sansare
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