Keeping your balls in the air

"Multitasking" has become the bane of the modern workplace--

Just a second. There's the phone.

Sorry about that. As I was saying, "multitasking" has become the bane of the modern workplace and this misguided attempt to--

The phone again. Sorry, but I'd been expecting that call.

Multitasking's a misguided attempt by managers to milk every minute of their employees' 10-hour workdays. It's not enough anymore that we do our jobs well, one task at a time. We must do several tasks at once. New research shows this isn't the best way to increase productivity. In fact, it's just the opposite--

Whoa, my e-mail's beeping. Hold on a minute.

OK, where was I? Oh, yes. A growing body of research shows that multitasking makes workers less efficient. Multitasking can actually make you dumber. Scientists say that, after a full day of stressful multitasking, it's a miracle that workers can find their cars in the parking lot to go home. Multitasking can--

Sorry, the e-mail again. This really could be important.

All right, I'm back. Of course, that wasn't important at all. Just a joke from one of my idiot friends. But it was a good one. I relayed it to a couple of other friends who enjoy that sort of thing. It's a wonder we get any work done all day--

Wait a minute. What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Multitasking. A recent study published in the "Journal of Experimental Psychology" found that people who do several things at once are less efficient because they lose time mentally switching from one task to another. The time lost increases with the complexity of the tasks. Which might not be so bad if you're, say, writing something. But what if you're an air traffic controller?

Bathroom break. There, that's better.

As an air traffic controller, I find that -- no, wait, that's not right.

Oh, yeah. Another study, published in "NeuroImage" and cited in "The Wall Street Journal," found that managing two tasks at once reduces the brainpower available for either job. In the study, people were asked to listen to someone talk while comparing two "rotating objects." The researchers found that, while listening, the subject had 29 percent less capacity for processing visual input. And, while processing the visual, brain activation for listening dropped 53 percent.

Did you say something? No? What was I going on about? Oh. Right.

A survey by the Families and Work Institute found that 45 percent of U.S. workers feel they are expected to do too many tasks as once. And the researchers didn't even talk to people like me, who work at home--

Hang on. The clothes dryer's buzzing.

So, as I was saying, laundry and deskwork simply don't mix. No, that wasn't it. What the--

Multitasking! It makes you, er, you know, stupid. And less efficient. And it can make you repeat yourself. Repeat yourself!

We American workers must stand up against this misguided policy of whatchacallit. Next time your boss asks you take on too many tasks as once, suggest he take a flying leap at a rotating object.

Soon, you'll find you can concentrate on just one thing -- updating your resume.

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