The Pros and Cons of Multitasking

Multitasking is a topic that often brings on a heated debate. Is it a positive attribute to boast about on resumes, or is it a risky habit that is harmful to those with attention issues? Are there areas in life—at home, in the office, in the classroom—where multitasking is OK, and others areas where it is not? Sure, multitasking can help us accomplish multiple items on a to-do list, but does doing multiple things at the same time affect our ability to do those tasks well?

And what about where students are concerned? Doing multiple tasks at a time must influence how they learn and the information that they retain…or does it?

PROs:

  • It’s easy to switch mental focus when doing simple tasks, allowing people to do multiple things at once. E.g. at home, talking on the phone while making breakfast and mopping the floor; At work, listening to radio, responding to an email, texting on your phone.
  • It can help you learn how to deal with distractions and interruptions—because life doesn’t stop happening just because you are busy.
  • It allows progress on multiple tasks, even if the progress is minimal. Helps move several projects/chores/assignments toward a single deadline.
  • It helps you develop the ability to cope when there is lots of chaos happening around you.
  • Society is continually more technologically wired. The ability to use multiple technologies simultaneously will keep people of all ages with adaptable, relevant, and employable.
  • When deadlines loom at the office and in the classroom, it is better to complete pieces of all tasks, than to only complete one.

CONs:

  • According to extensive research, the actual act of switching between two things actually takes longer mentally. Our brain assigns rules to how we do something and switching between tasks means closing one set of rules and opening another.
  • Interruptions – a ringing phone, the chime of an instant message – makes it difficult to come back to the original task at hand.
  • Multitasking often results in busywork—doing a lot, but accomplishing nothing. Whether in the office or in the classroom multitasking creates a drop in efficiency.
  • Non-stop distractions often lead to frustration and loss of attention. Instead of accomplishing many things, very little gets done. Interruptions are especially difficult for children who have attention deficiencies and are only just learning how to activate their internal filtering mechanisms.
  • The more technologically savvy we become, the less we tend to use basic, old-fashioned social skills. Some companies are even a taking an anti-technology stance and implementing email-free days to force employees to develop improved problem solving and teamwork.
  1. Often our methods of multitasking include a variety of technology devices. This leads to procrastination more than anything else.
  2. The brain gets tired. Just like any other muscle, it can be taxed. Known as executive function, the brain’s ability to make multiple decisions can easily tire it out thus making it a less-effective decision maker.

 

What do you think?