Multitasking: Weakness or Strength?

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Chances are, you’ve often felt like a multi-function printer during your workday: juggling a phone call while drafting an important email, all the while trying to complete a mechanical but equally crucial task. And to top it off, you need to do everything as quickly as possible because the weekly meeting is just around the corner.

Sounds tiring, doesn’t it? Yet, this isn’t an uncommon situation. In fact, the idea of multitasking is something that mothers mastered centuries ago with their ability to handle multiple things simultaneously and with precision. However, just because it’s been around for centuries doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective or efficient.

So, we ask ourselves: What are the benefits for the worker? Could it end up being more counterproductive?

What does multitasking mean?

It’s common to think that a multitasking person is someone with the potential and capability to handle multiple tasks all at once. And that’s exactly what multitasking individuals believe – let’s underline this: believe. Because, as some scientific studies have shown, multitasking doesn’t actually mean doing many activities simultaneously. The idea that our brain can truly focus on several things at the same time is a myth, as we unconsciously always allocate more attention to one of the activities we’re doing.

It’s important to understand that when we prioritize one task over the others, we inadvertently reduce our overall productivity. So, when we talk about ‘multitasking,’ we’re actually referring to the skill of quickly and efficiently switching from one thing to another (but not doing two tasks at once).

Another term related to multitasking is versatility, which indicates a person’s ability to handle different activities that each require various different sets of skills. When combined with the ability to swiftly and effectively switch tasks (meaning multitasking), this can lead to very positive results.

Multitasking in the workplace

When individuals are expected to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously in their job roles, they might end up experiencing burnout—losing motivation, straining work relationships, and negatively affecting their personal lives. However, there will always be people who are naturally more predisposed and adept at handling such situations.

In the current landscape, companies are seeking versatile team members who possess a natural knack for multitasking. Why? Because these individuals can easily adapt to various environments, offer solutions, and consistently deliver impressive results.

No need to worry; multitasking isn’t an inborn trait. It’s a skill that can be cultivated. Following the advice of numerous experts, here are some key tips to enhance your multitasking capabilities:

  • Rest. When working with a ‘multitasking approach,’ you’re putting a lot of strain on your brain, so getting proper rest is key.
  • Organization. Anything that helps you stay on top of your daily activities and keeps track of your progress in each task will be beneficial. Consider using the Scrum method.
  • Scheduling. Set completion goals. Most importantly, don’t stress if you miss deadlines. To avoid that, set realistic deadlines and prioritize your tasks.
  • Time management. It’s crucial to know when to disconnect from work and when to give it your all.
  • Rewards. Feel a sense of accomplishment each time you finish a task. Make it visual; for instance, use a calendar or a notebook to track your achievements.
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Advantages of a multitasking profile

Now that we have a slightly better understanding of the multitasking profile, it’s time to discover why this profile is in high demand in the work environment. Multitasking individuals possess a set of qualities that makes them an exceptional asset and allows them to access much better positions in the future.

  1. Greater Appreciation. A more comprehensive skill set offers the opportunity to access more prestigious positions and, naturally, those that come with higher compensation.
  2. Enhanced Productivity. This results in a much more efficient work profile, as organized workdays allow for tackling a greater number of tasks, from start to finish.
  3. Better Management. Not just of time, but also of resources and the effort dedicated to each task.
  4. Sharper Responsiveness. By refining your leadership skills and nurturing your multitasking abilities, you’ll be better equipped to confidently take on any assigned projects with a higher likelihood of success.

Challenges of multitasking

Still, despite all the previous points, we could also find ourselves needing to take a gap year after all the effort needed to become a multitasking individual. Some of the consequences of pursuing such a demanding multitasking profile are:

  1. Stress. As the saying goes: spreading yourself too thin results in achieving very little. Not only will you experience heightened cortisol levels, but you’ll also lose the enjoyment of your work and gradually lose interest.
  2. Neurological issues. Studies show that the brain is affected by a heavy workload – and stress. Memory capacity will also start to decline.
  3. Reduced effectiveness and quality. Without limitations, you’ll struggle to prioritize tasks and, more importantly, meet deadlines. This also impacts the overall quality of the final product.
  4. Risk of major errors. Attempting to focus on numerous tasks leads to a loss of concentration and, consequently, a higher likelihood of making mistakes.

Striking workload balance while remaining productive is essential for maximizing the benefits of multitasking in the professional world. You must be able to get the most out of it without it turning into a drawback and ending up paying the effects on your health. The key is to find hours in which you can give your brain and productivity a break to recharge.

As an additional note, there are some studies that back the positive impact of multitasking, since perceiving oneself as capable of multitasking proves beneficial for overall performance.

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