The illusion of efficient multitasking

Multitasking affects the quality of work and causes stress

At first glance, multitasking seems to be an enormous gain in efficiency for those who master it. You can do several tasks at the same time and save time. However, the President of the Association of German Company and Occupational Physicians (VDBW), Wolfgang Panter, warns the news agency "dpa" that this causes considerable stress in the brain. Instead of gaining efficiency, multitasking users would tire faster and make more mistakes. It is therefore better not to process several tasks in parallel, the expert explained.

Many people used multitasking more or less successfully at work in order to work through the daily mountain of tasks more efficiently. During the phone call, emails are read quickly, important information is researched on various websites on the Internet or texts are edited on a PC. Modern information and communication technologies have expanded the possibilities of multitasking significantly, but the stress in the brain remains the same. In the end, processing several tasks in parallel is less efficient than processing them in sequence, according to the findings of a research team led by Professor Clifford Nass from Stanford University. Nass and colleagues have been studying the consequences and supposed advantages of multitasking for years.

Multitasking calls for a high mental price Although people use multitasking every day, social researchers have always pointed out that “it is impossible to process more than one series of information at a time. The brain simply cannot do this, ”Nass and colleagues justified their research in 2009. Many scientists were of the opinion that "people who seem to be multitasking must have excellent control over what they think and what they pay attention to," said Stanford University at the time. The subsequent studies by Prof. Nass and colleagues showed, however, that multitaskers pay a "high mental price" and performed significantly worse when it came to taking in information, as well as its classification and memory, than subjects who performed their tasks Work through in sequence.

Information processing suffers from multitasking Professor Clifford Nass explained that the multitaskers - in spite of their practice in the simultaneous processing of several tasks - have to switch back and forth in the brain and there are considerable difficulties in classifying the relevance of the information. The multitaskers are real "suckers for irrelevance," says Prof. Nass. They are practically distracted from everything. Weighting the information is much more difficult for them than other people, and they have more difficulty in remembering the important information the brain is in a permanent state of stress, as it has to be switched between the different tasks at lightning speed constantly. In his current press release, the president of the Association of German Company and Occupational Physicians, Wolfgang Panter, comes to a similarly negative assessment of multitasking.

Doing tasks in sequence Ultimately, multitasking means that users tire more quickly and make mistakes more easily, according to the VDBW president. It is strongly advised not to multitask here and instead to work through the tasks one after the other. In case of doubt, the creation of a ranking list or priority list can also help. Although occasional interruptions due to a call or a new email in the inbox can hardly be avoided in today's working world, the expert recommends roughly adhering to the list of priorities. In order to avoid disruptive interruptions as far as possible, clear agreements in the office are an advantage. In this way, interruptions by colleagues in important tasks can be largely avoided. It also helps to go offline for 30 to 60 minutes a day so that you can concentrate on your work. Particularly important tasks could be processed quickly. However, the parallel processing of numerous tasks at the same time should also resist the people who master my multitasking better. Ultimately, not only the quality of their work suffers, but also their psyche. (fp)

Also read:
Multitasking: same stress for men & women

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