I have noticed that an increasingly larger number of people try to do multiple things at the same time in office environments. What strikes me is that only a small part of this restlessness actually yields better results or creates a noticeable increase in quality and efficiency.
In my opinion, the concept of multitasking needs to be reviewed, as -if considering today’s digital distractions- it is not a synonym of efficiency and the height of individual productivity.
Single tasking vs. multitasking (digital distractions)
- 1 – “single-tasking” – For instance, I could open Unity and start designing concepts for the game, then move onto doing some research to create a huge moodboard to finally return to the game with more inspiration and a better idea on how to proceed. This is not inherently multitasking as I am following a logical stream of thought from its start to its end and am just doing one thing at a time.
- 2 – multi-tasking – The second example would be for me to open Unity, respond to most twitter DMs and notifications to return to Unity (having forgotten a part of what I had been doing; and no, taking notes to keep the thought stream intact helps little as I would have lost the excitement of doing what I love the most – just an annoying tweet can charge me with negative tension). So, then I return to Unity – another tweet arrives. Another email. A colleague asks me a question about accounting. Back to Unity. A client sends me a question. Start the loop all over again.
Being productive is not the act of being omnipresent. Productivity is the ability to bring a full task to completion to a high quality standard and the act of giving our full attention to one thing or person at a time. In the first instance, after finishing the Unity task I’m able to fully dedicate my attention to social media, my emails, the colleague and my clients. This ultimately leads to a happier self, clients and colleagues.
Additionally, I reward myself by having 5 -10 minutes to relax after completing an entire task (the full Unity task (including the moodboard), the emailing task…).
If I have a look at the second instance, the majority of people tends not to be able to focus enough when handling more than one task at the same time, which leads to end of play with little achieved as we’ll have maybe say 3 tasks and they’ll be around 25% done.
Being fully engaged vs. multitasking presence
Because of the very nature of being busy – as the perpetual act of the not-so-often-productive moving and occupying time through a limitless range of activities, our attention is often swayed from the most important; therefore, high priority tasks. The “I’m busy right now” or in essence what is an excuse to complete something irrelevant to the task at hand, makes us unavailable to our colleagues, friends and partners and available to the very people that is not key to our job/life.
The act of being present for everyone at the same time through digital distractions often leads to half-answers and not fulfilling interactions with real-world-people, which generally means more distractions later on to then clarify concepts, whilst probably in the middle of creating another tweet response in the middle of the working day.
This is assuming your task in this case is not tweeting, obviously.
Stop and relax for a moment
Stopping, taking a breath and allowing some time to think is much more productive than this ethos of being constantly -but partially- engaged; it allows people to relax and be better for when our full attention is needed. Multitasking -as the office employee that needs to show being busy to meet the end of the month paycheck – when really nothing is happening only works for the people that are actually trying to look productive. The reality is different.