Multitasking vs Monotasking

Over the last few weeks, I have re blogged my most popular blogs from the past year.  I will be back blogging about business news and concepts next week. If you have any suggestions for blogs, feel free to contact me.

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For many years, we have been told that multitasking is the basis of a productive worker. Looking at a job advertisement, it was common to see “Must be able to multitask.” What is multitasking exactly?

As per the online dictionary of Wikipedia, multitasking “is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task at the same time.”1 An example of multitasking would be to listen to a conversation during a meeting while typing up an email in regards to another subject at the same time.

To put it simply, we have one brain and our body is best at completing one task at a time, rather than various tasks at a time. In looking at the picture above, you see an archer with various targets to shot at. Should that archer try to aim his arrow so he can hit multiple targets or shot for the center of the highest worth target? Based on the setup of the targets, it is best for him to aim for only one target.

Companies are trying to make it ‘easier’ to multitask now. As you can see below, an increasing number of the population is getting a smart phone, which allows you to call someone, email them, and surf the internet. The smart phone could the ‘poster child’ of a tool for multitasking.global smartphone shipments-3

If you look further down the Wikipedia definition, you will notice a statement that is become better known.

“Multitasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.”2

People don’t actually complete more than one task at a time, but shift between tasks on a constant basis, even before finishing the first time. When the person returns to complete the first task, they normally have to review what they previous completed or start all over again. In lean management vernacular, that would be considered rework which is one of the 8 different types of wastes.

Next time you find yourself trying to do 2 or 3 things at the same time, prioritize those items, do them one at a time, and to the best of your ability. It will create better quality work for you, your colleagues, and in the end, the customer.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach me.

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

  1. Wikipedia, Human Multitasking, www.en.wikepedia.org/wiki/Human_Multitasking
  2. Ibid
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