It’s no secret that today’s workplace is full of distractions. Emails and text messages, social media, the Internet and streaming media – it’s all at our fingertips and demanding our attention.
We’ve become so accustomed to using digital media, we continually switch back and forth between our work tasks and checking email and social media. Being able to multitask means you get more done, doesn’t it? No, not necessarily.
In reality, multitasking reduces our effectiveness because our brains are wired to focus attention on one thing at a time. When we try to do two things at once, we constantly have to switch between the short-term working memory and long-term memory, slowing down reaction time and reducing efficiency.
Although it’s hard to quantify, it has been estimated that multitasking costs the U.S. economy roughly $650 billion per year because employees continually interrupt existing tasks to continue later with the same tasks.
The Millennial generation (born between 1980 and mid-90s) tend to live an “always connected” lifestyle immersed in digital technology and social media. There is a constant tendency for Millennials to check electronic devices for messages and status updates, making them particularly susceptible to the syndrome known as ‘Fear of Missing Out’ (FOMO).
The ability to juggle this digital interaction while working, walking, talking, etc. has led some to believe that Millennials are superhuman multitaskers; evolutionary ‘digital natives’. This is not actually the case.
Clinical experiments confirm that regardless of age group, tasks done one at a time are completed faster and with fewer mistakes than activities done while multitasking.
In fact, Millennials tend to have the most difficulty working efficiently and staying focused in the face of digital distractions. Helping this segment of the workforce develop solid time management skills is critical to maintaining an effective and efficient workplace, particularly as this digital generation eclipses their older counterparts in the workforce.
John Males is Founder and President of Fathom Corporate Training. With more than 20 years of experience in management, sales and negotiations, he helps clients increase employee satisfaction, lower turnover, increase revenue and raise profit margins.