One Thing At A Time, Please
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
You may have heard it said that men can only do one thing at a time, whereas women can do several things at once (if you have, it was probably a woman that said it). Even if it’s true that doesn’t mean men are inferior. On the contrary, an article in the Wall Street Journal executive career site suggests that doing one thing at a time is more efficient.
The article, titled “Juggling Too Many Tasks Could Make You Stupid“, reports on scientific research which shows that doing several things at once - multitasking - can be less efficient than doing one task at a time, and comes with a cost. Here are some pertinent quotes from the article:
- “People who multitask are actually less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The time lost switching among tasks increases with the complexity of the tasks, according to the research by Dr Meyer and others.”
- “Managing two mental tasks at once reduces the brainpower available for either task, even when these activities engage two different parts of the brain.”
- “If the tasks require the same parts of the brain, such as two assignments that both draw on language skills, it’s going to be extremely hard to succeed efficiently”
- “Chronic high-stress multitasking also is linked to short-term memory loss”
- “It doesn’t mean you can’t do several things at the same time,” says Dr Just, co-director of the university’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging. “But we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can do so without cost.”
I’ve often felt that I can work more effectively by doing one thing at a time, and doing it well, rather than trying to do several things at once and doing none of them well. Finding research that supports my belief is gratifying. Now if I hear a woman complaining that “men can only do one thing at a time” I’ll view it as a compliment … a sign that we men are just working more efficiently!