Good news, studies have found that women are (reputed) to be better at multitasking than men. Is it possible that I can work better, more efficiently because I am doing more things at once? Is it possible that I can simultaneously read my emails, write notes, plan my weekend and eat my lunch? Is it possible that I can listen to music, check my twitter account and blog at the same time? Like many of us, I’d like to believe that I can multitask effectively — more is more, right? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘No.’ Not only do we lack hard evidence that women multitask better than men, effective multitasking does not exist. True to the age-old adage, more is not always more — less is more.
Stanford researchers, after putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, conclude that heavy multitaskers — people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information — cannot pay attention, control their memory. High multitaskers are easily distracted can have difficulty filtering out what’s irrelevant and focus on what’s relevant. One study from Microsoft showed that programmers lost 10 minutes every time they pause their original task to cheek on an incoming email. Interruptions — notifications, emails — devastate our productivity. We are losing valuable time! So why can’t we simply turn notifications off? Even better, why don’t we shut off our phones or lock ourselves out of our computers? Four letters — FOMO (fear of missing out).Our social-media-constructed-reality looks something like this: Social connections — i.e. what’s happening on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — takes precedence over what is happening in our real lives real time. We fear that if we ignore these interruptions, we might be missing out on something interesting or entertaining. Instead of “interruptions,” we see them as “connections.” The irony, as noted by MIT professor Sherry Turkle in her book Alone Together, is that we disconnect ourselves from our present.
When is downtime, when is stillness? The text-driven world of rapid response does not make self-reflection impossible, but does little to cultivate it.
Not only are we interrupted in our present (moment, task, or fill-in-the-blank), we also suffer from what psychologists call “ego depletion.” We feel bad because we can’t say no to interruptions and we feel even worse when we end up not finishing the work. The solution? I haven’t figured it out yet. But here’s a start — read about how to get the most out of your day from successful (supposedly always productive) CEO’s.