How many times did you see multitasking as a requirement for a role?
How many times recruiters asked you how do you manage multiple tasks simultaneously? Actually I always get puzzled about what multitasking is and how does it actually look like, so let’s knock it down!

Today let’s define what is the truth about multitasking. You know, during all  of my career and actually not only in project management I was always asked by recruiters whether I can multitask. Initially it was just a fancy word, but later on recruiters wanted me to clarify how actually do I do this. 

All of the times I was bumping in a wall of misconception. Nowadays, when we are finally at the age of working smarter not harder let’s clarify how to deal with this strange beast. Now tell me how many things can you actually do simultaneously? 

How our brain deals with multitasking

We all heard about Cesar and his magnificent ability to do seven things at the same time. But how much truth is there inside of this myth? Actually number seven is not the occasional one. Actually this number is also mentioned in the research about education and the concept of this research tells us that simultaneously the human brain can physically keep inside only seven things. You can check the presentation about it here

To summarize the above, the theory here is when we are constantly receiving new information and when our internal storage becomes overwhelmed and overloaded with old pieces of information the least relevant and least important pieces have to leave to free the space for the new ones. 

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What is more, when we are continuously experiencing this overload with information we are not able to focus on anything. This means our attention becomes way too spread out and superficial. How does it affect the working or operational activities? Just imagine, you’re constantly hoping from one task to another; you’re receiving the new information you need to obtain it and apply it to the task you’re currently executing… 

What’s going on? You’re not able to focus precisely on any problem or process which increases the possibility of missing something important and making a mistake.

Daily routine when we multitask

Now I’m sure you’re gonna tell me that you can do multiple things simultaneously. For instance, you can drive, listen to music and talk to a friend at the same time. Or maybe you can jog and listen to a podcast, and track the traffic around of you? Maybe you are eating and reading a newspaper watching a TW, right? 

Indeed, we are doing this all the time. But just imagine how much efficient can you be in all these activities at the same time when you are spreading your resource among of them? Honestly, how many things can you do at the same time on the top of the efficiency? Here is the ugly truth: multitasking is a myth. You can be efficient but not In the tasks that you’re executing simultaneously. 

What i’m talking about is that multitasking doesn’t equal productivity. If you are not convinced yet let’s reflect a little bit more.

Multitasking doesn't equal productivity

Imagine the situation, you have received an urgent email from a client this morning and you started to read it. Then you found out that it is time to run on a sync with your team and to conduct the daily meeting. During this daily stand up you have defined that you need to apply some changes to the upcoming milestone in order to optimize the project work. Also, you’re keeping in mind the report that you need to present to the stakeholders in this afternoon.

Do you still remember about the email that you have received from the client
this morning? 

Moving on, let’s imagine that you have managed to put everything on your list of tasks for today. After the standup meeting you need to decide what you’re going to do first. As you have already started to read an email you have decided to complete this action before moving to other work. When you’re getting back to this email, do you start where you stopped or do you are starting to read all over again? In the majority of cases we are starting all over again in order to make sure that we haven’t forgotten or haven’t missed something important.

Does re-doing equal productivity? Nope. So what the conclusions are?

  • Number one, multitasking is a myth. We are not able to execute several tasks simultaneously on the top of our productivity.
  • Number two, if we try to multitask our productivity decreases and we are experiencing wastes and repetitive actions.
  • Number three, when we talk about multitasking it’s more appropriate to consider time management and an ability to prioritize. 

What will increase your productivity – is an ability to plan your work without a necessity of switching from one task to another with low productivity, low engagement
and low value.