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Multitasking is multi-failing

Frustrated office work at his deskMultitasking is a certain norm today. We spend hours in physical or virtual offices watching as emails come flying in, side by side with instant messages, texts and phone calls. This is on top of impromptu hallway drive by visits and unplanned conversations. So how do we get anything accomplished in a typical work day? Not well, evidently.

Forbes recently had a guest post that reference a study from the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London where they compared the greatest decrease in IQ from the following 4 activities:

  1. Losing a night’s sleep
  2. Smoking marijuana
  3. Emailing while talking on the phone

You guessed correctly. Multitasking took the prize for greatest decrease in IQ (temporarily reducing your IQ by 10 points). Why? Studies show that multitasking actually equates to just hopping from task to task and becoming less effective with each one in the process. This is challenging our ability to make decisions as well, since multitasking is really choosing ALL options in front of us instead of prioritizing specific priorities that matter.

I find the same scenario sometimes in social media. It is easy to get lost in all of the posts and activities and feel overwhelmed by making sure I like or follow or comment on items.  Over time, though, I’ve learned to scan posts or activity at a high level and then only find those few items that are prioritized and really matter and try to respond to them.

And as far as my efficiency and prioritizing and overcoming my multitasking challenge? Well, that’s still a work in progress. I definitely find time though, like the author points out, to block out one small patch of time each day to work on a specific task or project. That means silencing the phone, turning off email and really focusing. I’m also happy with the results. It’s a baby step though, and as soon as the time wraps up and normal routine begins again, I’m right back into multitasking mode.

Here’s hoping that all of us can learn from the dangers of multitasking and keep our IQs going strong.

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