I have been on a crusade to minimize multi-tasking for years. I wrote about this very topic in this Crazy Busy post.
Through decades of observations of salespeople, leaders, and everyday folks, and research supports me, I believe that we are not as productive as we believe when we are doing multiple things at once or multi-tasking. This is compounded if the ‘things’ require mental effort or processing.
You see, not only do we only have 24 hours in a day, our brain only has so much bandwidth to handle what is going on around us. I’ve used the term bandwidth for a long time in describing our mental capacity – which many people don’t like to think of because we are supposed to be superhuman.
Yet we do only have a FINITE amount of mental space to use at any given time. And we need to use it wisely.
It seems a Harvard Professor agrees with me.
Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan has said that the ultimate barrier to success is a shortage of mental “bandwidth,” or the ability to focus on a task in the moment.
Mullainathan’s research focuses on scarcity, and how humans respond when they have a shortage of something — be it money, food or time. He presented his findings Thursday at the annual Aspen Ideas Festival, along with his research partner, Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir.
They’ve discovered that shortages lead people to make poor decisions. The brain can only process so much at a time.
If we only have so much time, mental bandwidth, and energy to spend every day, then what’s important is how you spend it.
If you want to invest your personal resources wisely, begin with knowing what is important to you. I’m talking about goals. Identify and plan your goals to ensure that you do focus on what is most important to you.
Multi-tasking for non-mental activities can serve as well. Multi-tasking in many other ways really does hurt us.
Here’s a link to Mullainathan’s presentation. http://www.aspenideas.org/session/scarcity-why-having-too-little-means-so-much