Like everyone else, you may have your smartphone on the table in front of you during every meeting. There’s an important email you’re waiting to receive, a crucial call you don’t want to miss, or maybe you want to be ready to look something up to add to the discussion. Whatever the reason, you’re multi-tasking. You even give yourself a quiet pat on the back for getting double the work done.
Unfortunately, that’s not how our brains actually work.
Research shows that even though we might be doing more as we monitor emails, texts, calls and social media pings, we’re actually accomplishing less.
You see, our brains are not wired to effectively or efficiently switch between tasks. Switching takes you four times longer to recognize new things, so when you bounce from your emails, to the texts, and then back to the meeting, you’re losing time.
You and every other so-called multi-tasker are actually serial tasking. Instead of doing multiple tasks simultaneously, you’re shifting from one task to the next in rapid succession. And studies have shown that we don’t retain as much of what we learn when our brains are preoccupied with another task, and that makes us more likely to make mistakes or to have to redo a project.
Think about it: Have you ever accidentally hit “Reply all” on an email you really didn’t want everyone to see? Were you multitasking when you did it?
If you, like most of the people in the world, are hopelessly addicted to your smartphone, there are a few steps you can take to break that cycle.
- Schedule all the time in your day. When your schedule does not have gaps of undesignated time, it’s harder to get lost in a smart phone rabbit hole.
- Build “screen breaks” into your schedule, both at work and at home.
- Control your email usage. Schedule when and how often you will check your email.
In addition to causing errors, there’s the rudeness factor in multitasking.
You’re not making allies at work if your co-workers see only the top of your head, rather than your face, when they look around the conference table. A survey of executives showed that the majority of them believed that when a colleague used a smart phone during a meeting, that showed a lack of respect, lack of attention, lack of listening and a lack of power. And no one wants to be the person at work who is thought of like that.