Multi-tasking is bunk – the costs far outweigh the benefits.
Here’s a fine HBR piece by Ron Friedman that explains why.
Friedman nicely describes what I call ‘start-stop waste’.
Multi-tasking entails continually stopping a task, and starting a new one.
The cost is depth – we become stupider. Friedman suggests the cost is ten IQ points. In my experience, it’s quite a bit higher.
Very smart people do very dumb things while multi-tasking. (I speak from humbling experience.)
Start-stop waste is epidemic in New Product Development, where some managers below we have to ‘keep the pipeline full’, and Designers loaded to 100%.
But once the number of projects per designer exceeds eight or so, start-stop waste balloons.
The same syndrome arises in support groups like IT, Engineering and Maintenance. In our coaching work, we suggest an upper load limit of 80%.
The remaining 20%, which we call ‘White Space’, is a fine buffer for life’s inevitable pratfalls.
Murphy rules the universe – always has & always will.
Let’s not weaken our defences through thoughtless multi-tasking.