If you fancy yourself the consummate plate spinner – having the ability to perform many jobs at once – here’s a bulletin…
You aren’t multitasking. You are task switching. You jump from task to task so quickly that it only seems like you are doing multiple things simultaneously.
Wait, there’s more…
Turns out that if you are a heavy multitasker you probably aren’t performing well at all.
A 2009 Stanford Multitasking study set out to see what gave Multitaskers their edge.
What they found was that Multitaskers had no edge.
In test after test heavy multitaskers scored lower than lighter multitaskers.
“We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” said lead researcher Eyal Ophir.
They found one thing that Multitaskers were good at though.
As the study’s co-author Professor Clifford Nass stated,
“They’re suckers for irrelevancy. Everything distracts them.”
One implication of the study is that people who multitask may actually be avoiding the tasks they should be working on.
Another may be that looking busy is more important than doing one thing well.
Read a summary of the Stanford Multitasking study here.