Multitasking has become so entrenched as a concept in American life that questioning it is seen as an attack on the work ethic or just as an excuse for goofing off.
In her book “Singletasking,” Devora Zack highlights many of the problems that multitasking causes, problems that lead to, rather than away from, lost productivity and massive inefficiency.
Multitasking is gospel, and its advocates are seen as the apostles trying to bring the word to a world of unbelievers.
Zack is proud to be a non-believer and she offers responses to multitasking justifications for those who would join her. Here are some ideas:
- “I have two deadlines. I can’t do more than one thing at a time.” It is only humanly possible to do one thing at a time. Task-switching is the antithesis of concentration.
- “Making others wait to be accommodated is rude and selfish.” Multitasking rather than focusing on the person in front of you is rude and disrespectful.
- “I am being productive by responding to emails during a boring, irrelevant meeting.” Studies show that people who do that are perceived, particularly by senior executives, as lacking will power and self-control.
- “I get a hundred messages a day. I have to multitask.” The only way to efficiently handle numerous demands is to pay attention to one at a time.
- “It is efficient to whip off a quick reply to an instant message while on a conference call — one less thing to do.” This is how haphazard mistakes are made.