Two Studies Prove Multitasking Is Overrated (But Satisfying)

Two Studies Prove Multitasking Is Overrated (But Satisfying)

Gregory Han
May 7, 2012

Sometimes I think I should just change my name to Juggles the Clown, such is the extent of multitasking required throughout the day. IM chats with contributors, weekly conference calls, scheduling, image processing/editing, brainstorming posts for myself and the rest of the team, not to mention all the miscellaneous happenings that intrude upon actually getting things done effectively (aka, my cats requiring some attention). It can all be too much at once. Two studies were just published spotlighting results which go against the convention of my own and general American working habits...

UC Irvine released the results of a study this week that email may be one of the worst culprits of ruining productivity in our lives, while also adding to stress levels:

Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often they switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as often and were in a steady "high alert" state, with more constant heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates.

"We found that when you remove email from workers' lives, they multitask less and experience less stress," said UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark.

Similarly, Ohio State University researchers reported multitasking behavior doesn't lend itself to an actual increase in productivity, but the act of handling many things at once simply fool us into believing we're getting more done: multitaskers "are not being more productive -- they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.".

I don't know if I can ignore email normally for more than a day (I set aside Sunday as an email-free day on my calendar, and it's helped considerably), but simply turning setting inbox notification to an hourly rate, rather than by the minute, can help reduce the phenomena of being "distracted by everything".

Also, simply routintely taking regular breaks throughout the day, even if only to stretch or get something to drink, or even play a short game can help productivity and health, whether working from home or in an office environment.

But maybe the best solution is to disconnect altogether for short intervals of focused moments in offline mode, because it's all too easy to cheat. It's all great advice, but as Peter Cetera once crooned, "you're a hard habit to break". I just peeked at my inbox...again.

Via The Verge

(Image: Gregory Han)

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