Multi tasking.

I had an interesting conversation with a HR friend of mine.  While proudly explaining the detailed bench-marking and psychometric tests they conduct while hiring, one of the things that she mentioned that they look for is person’s ability to multi task.

When I inquired further, she said, our profiles are very demanding that requires a person to be on his toes all the time and handle 04-05 tasks all at once without getting perturbed.

I found her statement contradicting to what I had read on the subject

According to an interesting book Emotional first Aid , written by Guy Winch, Ph.D,

Our mind is not capable of multi-tasking; all we do is switch back and forth between tasks really quickly.

Our minds have a very limited bandwidth for active task at hand and almost all of it gets used on 01 thing itself with nothing left for anything else.

Now this is interesting, next question that comes up is what are the consequences of this constant switching? How do we know if this switching which at least on surface appears as if the person is street smart, is actually adding anything to productivity?

Social scientists have spent considerable time in grappling with this question and the latest research is a revelation to say the least.


I am attaching the research report above for those of you who like to get deep into the subject.

For the rest here are the findings.

  1. Multi tasking or task- switching to be precise results in loss of productivity of upto 40%. In fact when multi tasking was removed, there was a 60% increase in the projects completed and a 35% decrease in the time taken to complete the project. These are mind boggling statistics.
  2. The research also concluded that multi- taskers are more vulnerable and susceptible to distractions by any outside stimuli compared to one task guys.
  3. Another startling conclusion was that multi tasking (task switching) results in increased stress, anxiety and depression.

It seems Japanese knew a thing or 02 about this latest research at least 05 decades earlier. Their just in time inventory management is organized in such a way that every person does just one monotonous job only and the end product is assembled at the last stage.

What essentially happens in such a set-up is that every individual develops a domain expertise in his job and starts excelling at it through repeated practice.

You don’t even need sophisticated research to prove this simple point.  At the expense of sounding like a sexist, I want you to have a look at the picture below.







That is one heady concoction, waiting to explode. Invariably, as a subconscious response, you would maintain a distance of at least 100 feet from her and let this multi-tasker go.







The conclusion is loud and clear. There is no such thing as multi tasking. It is nothing more than a hollow HR word with no meaning. In fact multi tasking is counter-productive. You need people with domain expertise not jack of all jokers. In fact research has shown that meditation or any spiritual practice increases productivity by attacking the same problem. Through increased practice of meditation, your mind develops focus, single pointed-ness and concentration.

As always comments are welcome..