Another argument about multitasking

We all know multitasking is ineffective. Oh, you haven’t heard that? Or you’re different and you’re a wildly effective (and efficient) multitasker? I’m calling that bluff.

Many of us have heard the statistics about loss of productivity when multitasking. When a worker switches between tasks, productivity drops between 20% and 40% (DeMarco & Lister, 1987; University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, 2001). This makes people lose time and creates waste, not to mention a greater propensity to make mistakes. But, it’s not just the multitasker that is suffering; it’s their team(s), too.

I once led a training which was unfortunately right after a release. You guessed it, production issues. I had two tables of people working on issues as I was trying to run training. They were getting up and leaving the room, whispering to each other, and distracting everyone else. I guarantee the only thing they got out of the training was not to schedule it after a release and the others in the room probably retainedĀ little more.

Multitasking creates a distraction for everyone. Think about that person you see in your meeting on their phone. You look at them. You wonder how long they will be texting/emailing. You look back – still doing it. Look again, yep. Are they even listening?! Now you’re not listening…the perpetual cycle and everyone’s productivity drops.

I’m not saying that production bugs won’t happen and I’m not saying not to check your phone in meetings ever. What I am saying is be courteous to those around you. If you cannot be fully present, then don’t be there. You’re not adding value if you’re distracting everyone else and not paying attention yourself. As for the prod bug team, they should have left the room to fix the issues and returned afterward. Or rescheduled their training. Or delegated a few people to step out. Instead it was all computers and phones for two days and no value gained through the training for them when others could have gotten much more value.

For the rest of us in ordinary meetings that we cannot pay attention to…do you need to be there? If so, will the world end if you are disconnected for an hour? Probably not and if so, we have other organizational single point of failure issues. So leave your phone, turn off your email, and be present – if not for yourself then for the rest of the people you are with.

01. June 2016 by Natalie Warnert
1 comment

One Comment

  1. I am with you Natalie. Early in my career as a developer I had a similar thing happen and I didn’t get to finish the training. If your mind is some where else, you are not getting anything out of it.

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