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Is Multitasking Efficient?

Multitasking can be efficient, but it can also be dangerous if it distracts you from the job at hand.
There are pros and cons to multitasking.
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  • Written By: Matthew F.
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 April 2014
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Multitasking, the act of doing more than one task at one time, can be both a help and a hindrance to human productivity. Its efficiency depends on the tasks being performed, the person performing them, and the depth of attention required for each task. Some tasks may be done more efficiently if focused on alone, while other tasks can be completed more quickly, and thus more efficiently, if done together. Multitasking often saves times, though the quality of work may suffer in some cases.

An example of multitasking can include watching an instructional or educational video while researching a similar topic in a book. A person might gain a surface knowledge of the main points of the video and the key ideas of the text while doing both at the same time. If done separately, however, the full concept and details of both the video and the text can be consumed, though it would likely take double the time. In the same vein, a multitasker may do both at the same time, and it could take longer as a result if the person does not want to lose content from either source and so rewinds or rereads.

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Many experts have debated whether or not doing multiple tasks at the same time is efficient, and how it may limit or help human productivity. Many studies have proven that it will not produce as concentrated an understanding or efficiency of a subject or job as individual attention to the job. Even simple tasks performed at the same time may suffer from divided attention.

Partial attention in tasks that do not require intense participation, though, has been demonstrated as an efficient form of multitasking. In tasks that can be scanned or performed superficially, with only limited attention from the multitasker, efficiency will usually not suffer from divided attention. If a slow process requiring partial attention can be combined with another similar process, the two can realistically be combined and the results may not suffer. For example, a slow workout technique such as shoulder shrugs with dumbbells can be combined with another slow movement with a different part of the body, such as toe lifts, to save time without losing the efficiency of the muscle strain of both workouts.

Other types include computer multitasking, where a computer executes two tasks or actions simultaneously. In this process, the programs being run or downloaded may load more slowly, but because of the nature of a computer, which is different from the human brain, they are done completely and efficiently. In media multitasking, a person uses different forms of media together. This can involve using an MP3 player, a computer, a digital recorder, or a personal digital assistant, and it can be efficient in using the different tools for different forms of communication and information.

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Discuss this Article

lighth0se33
Post 4

I have to multitask at work in order to get everything done in time. I am a graphic designer at a newspaper, and I often jump between ads as needed to meet deadlines.

If I'm working on a large ad that will take hours to do and my boss comes up with a small ad that needs to be sent to the customer for approval that day, I will save the large ad and close it just long enough to do the small one. In the middle of the afternoon, I have to stop whatever I am doing and lay out the classified pages.

I get several ads throughout the day from various sales reps, and I stack them on my desk in order of importance. Often, though, I will have a couple of them open at once, because a sales rep will come up to me and get me to alter one little thing on an ad I've already done so it can be sent out for approval.

Perdido
Post 3

My husband is a big multitasking machine. The problem is that he never finishes all the tasks he is trying to do together.

He has ADHD, so he is easily distracted. He will start putting away the dishes, and he will notice that a hinge on the cabinet is loose, so he will go out to his shop to grab some tools. While he is out there, he will see the project he was working on last week lying on the work bench, and he will abandon the other tasks to work on it.

Then, his phone will ring, and he will wander off while talking on it and notice that the lawn needs mowing, so as soon as he gets off the phone, he will get on the mower. It must be an exhausting way to live! It is frustrating to me, because I have to come home and finish putting away the dishes and complete whatever other household chores he has halfway done.

cloudel
Post 2

@OeKc05 – I know what you mean. I always feel like I'm running out of time, and this crazy rush has embedded multitasking into my subconscious as the way that life must be lived.

I find myself very stressed while multitasking at home. I will be cooking dinner while unloading laundry and folding a few clothes in between flips of the spatula. This inattention sometimes results in burned food.

I honestly feel like if I don't do everything at once, it will never get done. Does anyone else here feel like time is moving by more swiftly than ever before?

OeKc05
Post 1

Multitasking in our generation has become standard practice. I don't even know anyone my age who does only one thing at once anymore.

My sister takes the kids to school while talking on a hands-free headset with her secretary to find out what is on schedule for the day. Several of my friends listen to the news on the television while getting ready for work, and they also jog and use dumbbells at the same time.

My grandparents are the only people I know who still take time to do each task before moving on to the next. They seem to be more satisfied and more at peace than everyone else I know, so even though multitasking might be efficient, it doesn't necessarily make you more fulfilled or happy.

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