Want Efficiency? Don’t Multitask

We used to put “ability to multitask” as a positive on our resumes, but maybe it’s best to start leaving that one off next time you are hunting for a job.

Here’s why: Only 2% of people are able to multitask effectively, according to Ragan Communications. The rest of us – yes, going ahead and counting myself in the other 98% (but not to be confused with Occupy Wall Street, or whatever they are calling themselves these days) – need to focus on one project, one memo, one e-mail at a time.

We burn 10 IQ points for each distraction. That’s the same as missing a full night’s sleep (and as a new parent, I value sleep and I’m already apparently losing IQ points for having an infant – so you can bet I’m putting my focus on one thing at a time today).

Here are some startling facts that an OnlineCollege.org infographic offers about multitasking at work and at home:

  • 89% of people with smartphones use them at work, even though 45% of U.S. workers already believe they have to work on too many things at once.
  • On average, employees who use a computer for work are distracted once every 10.5 minutes.
  • It’s not just adults – students multitask while they learn, but 62% of the web pages students open during class are unrelated to the subject (don’t think I’ve ever heard of a class in Facebook).
  • And we are not truly relaxing, either: 67% of people use smartphones on dates; 45% do it at movie theatres; and 33% check phones in church.
  • Trying to focus on more than one thing causes a 40% drop in productivity – which is twice the effect of smoking marijuana. The average desk job employee loses 2.1 hours a day to interruptions, equaling 546 hours total for the year.
  • Using a cell phone (hands-free or handheld) while driving is distracting – it slows a drivers’ reaction as much as having a blood alcohol content of .08%.

Try to remember these statistics at work and at home and leave the little glowing technology box in your purse or pocket to reach your full productivity.