The Cambridge Dictionary states the term ‘multitasking‘ is ‘a person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time‘. Humans multitask continually throughout the day; whether that be reading emails whilst on a conference call, or responding to a text message whilst watching television. Have you ever been encouraged by your employer to do more than one task at once?
Multitasking effectively means switching your focus between tasks, therefore giving less than 100% of your attention at one time (Forbes, 2018). The new trend for performing jobs is referred to as ‘monotasking‘ which, defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, is ‘the act of doing only one task at a time, especially in order to work more effectively‘. However, what if there was a platform that was designed to multitask, so that you could monotask?
It is now 2018, we exist in a world where robots are almost a part of our daily lives. Therefore, why do we still find it difficult to multitask? How is it that there is still no better way of achieving multitasking to optimise efficiency in the workplace?
Ultimately, the human brain is not designed to multitask. Instead, our brains task-switch therefore our attention is almost always divided between multiple things, so we don’t allow ourselves to solely focus on one single task. In the last two decades, we have seen huge advances in modern technology where a Nokia has been replaced with an Apple iPhone, and self-driving cars now exist on the road. However, do you think these advances have had a positive effect on our productivity?
Millions of us work on computers in an office, where we contact our colleagues via telephone, with hundreds of emails filtering through each day. But the ability to focus on several platforms at once is near to impossible. Why? Machines and applications can multitask, but people cannot. Unfortunately, sitting at your desk working with your mobile, tablet and laptop next to you is likely to cause you to task-switch multiple times throughout the day. Technology does not make multitasking easier – in fact, it provides more distractions. Whilst we argue that multitasking is not productive for humans, maybe the most effective place lies somewhere in the middle of this? In today’s day and age, it’s incredible that we don’t have more solutions that allow us to reach this optimum level of productivity, to make our lives easier to manage and tasks easier to complete.
Are women better at multitasking?
Most women will agree that females are far better at multitasking than men, and research has proven that women could be. Medical Daily reported that a study in Human Physiology ‘found men require more brain power than women when multitasking’. It is argued that women find it easier to task-switch, due to the fact they think about the task in more detail initially, in comparison to men. It’s interesting to see that there are few studies carried out for this considering the men vs. women debate is so prominent in daily conversations – “men are stronger than women”, “women are poorer drivers” – however, further research has suggested that gender differences play a role in our ability to multitask. American psychology, Jerre Levy, explained that “men have better spatial skills whilst women are better at verbal tasks, due to evolution and social factors”. This is not something to get hung up on, but it could explain why women find it much easier to task-switch when those tasks involve communication, for example.
Now, how can we better our productivity to avoid task-switching?
- Focus your attention on one task. A supporting case study carried out by Jerry Linenger, an American astronaut, found an effective strategy to complete multiple tasks in the day without task-switching to a great extent. Jerry set alarms on a number of watches, each one for a different task. When a particular watch rang, he knew it was time for him to switch tasks which meant he was able to give his full focus to the task at hand.
- Work on related tasks together. Cognitive psychologist and author of Smart Thinking (2012), Art Markman, explains “the more times you switch, the more times you have to keep changing the state of your brain”. This effectively means you lose time and focus, in turn, productivity. Therefore it’s a wise idea to bundle together tasks that relate, allowing you to minimise task-switching.
- Blocking out time for uninterrupted work. If you want to focus, then don’t give yourself the ability to distract yourself. Also, by alerting your work colleagues that you do not want to be distracted, this will ensure that you won’t be bombarded by emails or questions by your co-workers. Ultimately, by designating this time to yourself, you will be able to focus on your single tasks and complete them to a high level.
- Take a break. Make sure you give yourself time to enjoy and away from your to-do-list. It’s not productive checking social media at the same time as trying to work therefore, taking a break to relax your mind will most likely improve your productivity in the long run.
You see, there are a number of ways that you can increase your levels of productivity. It’s all about focusing your attention on the task at hand, and finding methods to remove unnecessary distractions. Do you spend the majority of your day responding to emails? Stop this unproductive task by dedicating 1-2 hours a day to responding to your emails. Make sure you take a lunch break, even if it’s just 15-20 minutes away from your desk. This will benefit you in multiple ways, allowing you to relax and rejuvenate your brain before returning to your desk; it’s almost guaranteed that you will achieve a whole lot more following this small break.
Finally, as humans, can we inherently multitask?
The simple answer to this, no! Scientifically, the human brain is not designed to multitask, but with the large amount of power our brains have, it’s natural to think that we can handle more than one task at a time. However, when you try to tackle multiple tasks, your brain is just shifting it’s attention from one to the other, without focusing on one thing at a time. Techopedia defines multitasking, in relation to computing, as ‘the ability of a processor or operating system to execute and process more than one task at a time’’. Therefore, we are pleased to introduce myAko, a platform designed with the vital tools to allow you to complete your tasks of the day – myAko is built to multitask, to enable you to focus on one task at a time.
Find out more about myAko here!