According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, one of the world’s experts on divided attention, there is no such thing as multitasking – we simply can't focus on more than one thing at a time.
What we can do is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed. Says Miller, "Switching from task to task, you think you're paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you're actually not."
Scott Mautz agrees saying, “We believe we're effective at multitasking when in reality we're good at what researchers call ‘task-switching’.
And neuroscientist and author Dr Daniel J. Levitin says multitasking is one of the most damaging illusions of the internet age.
We sacrifice our power of full presence when we're multitasking, and we do so for a perceived benefit of improved productivity that simply doesn't exist. Research indicates that multitaskers are actually less likely to be productive, yet they feel more emotionally satisfied with their work, thus creating an illusion of productivity.
This bears repeating. Forget for a moment that multitasking can be incredibly rude… we're not actually accomplishing what we think we are!
In fact, research indicates up to 40 percent of productivity could be lost due to task-switching. It actually takes more time to complete the tasks you're switching between and you make more errors than when you focus on doing one task at a time in order.
A Stanford University study confirmed this by showing that those who multitask are indeed worse performers, and struggle because they can't filter out irrelevant information, slowing down completion of the cognitive task at hand.
I’m sure you can picture a few people you’d like to share this information with… if you can just get their attention for long enough for it to sink in.
- Dr Nancy K Napier, Psychology Today
- Scott Mautz, author of 'Find the Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again'
- Bri Williams, author of ‘Behavioural Economics for Business’.