Multitasking and Time Wasting

I have been struggling this week with getting a blog article written. Too many items keep coming across my desk that distract me from the task. I had a topic I was all set to write about; I even started jotting some notes. Then something else interrupted me. As I have gotten older and have more diverse responsibilities, I have found that my ability to stay focused on one task at a time has suffered. I certainly do not have any of the attention disorders that affect concentration. There is just too much going on! And the technology that is supposed to help us only makes it worse. It gives us the illusion that we can do even more. (I just finished writing this article only to lose it when I tried to Save!)

In the past several months, there has been considerable discussion of multitasking and its effects on our lives…from cell phone use while driving, and instant messaging while in the classroom to constantly checking email and other online sources while answering the phone. Dr. John M. Grohol at The World of Psychology reviewed several articles that discuss multitasking in different situations. Dr. Grohol suggests that the outcome of multitasking might make us think twice about doing it…except that our world seems to require that we do many things at the same time. He cites a paper by Mark, Gudith and Klocke that measures the effects of constant interruptions on work product and on the worker. While work quality seems to stay the same, the worker definitely pays a price. Work product is shorter and the worker is stressed.

My experience in mental health practices, behavioral health clinics and medical offices is that interruption is the order of the day. These environments are incredibly busy to begin with, and the demands of serving consumers and patients while also attending to business needs makes it impossible to go smoothly from one completed task to the next. My own office is no different. I work on writing an article and the telephone rings, or my computer announces the arrival of a new email that seems to require my attention immediately. The outcome for me is much less efficiency and a feeling that I am not producing well.

What is your work setting like? Do you find that technology is a help or a hindrance in getting your job done? Does the ability to do many things at one time get more accomplished or just result in your leaving work at the end of the day with one massive headache? Do the tools help you or just waste your time?

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0 thoughts on “Multitasking and Time Wasting

  • I was going to read this when it came out but I got distracted by 5 other things. I recall an APA Monitor cover story on “Data Smog” and something to the point that our lives are filled with so much data that it all seems like smog after a while.
    How will the young brains of the next generation adjust? While many decry what is happening to our kids, how they don’t communicate well, how they have no patience, how they text when they drive, etc., I am a big believer in evolution. They’ll figure it out.
    As for us, God help us and our poor productivity and feeling stressed because our brains can’t adjust to the data smog. Therefore, I, for one, have NOT gone with a Blackberry. I like my dinners out uninterrupted. I’ll create some “smog-Free” zones in my life ( the golf course is a great one, so is running). And I hope to teach my kids some of the same.–Vince

  • Thanks for your comment, Debi. I could not agree more. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the capability of not being available. Service to our customers comes first, so other tasks come second if I am in line to do customer service when one of our staff is out of the office. But I certainly do enjoy the days when I can close my door and work on a training video, or some such task. It is a much more satisfying way for me to work.

  • I agree that age is a factor in losing the ability to multi-task as I once could. But with age, I have gotten the wisdom that multi-tasking only cheats each task I’m trying to do. None are done as efficiently or as detailed as they would have been had I been giving them all my attention. Multi-tasking is actuall a time waster.

    As you state, inherently some jobs must be full of interuptions. If your job is not one, you become twice as efficient when you only make yourself available during set times, when you only return phone calls at set times….and therefore devout yourself to the task you are doing.

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