How Multitasking adversely affects Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
Last week, I was teaching a workshop on Emotional Intelligence to a group of senior executives. The topic of Multitasking quickly came up. I had named “stop multitasking” as one of the ways to increase your Emotional Intelligence. The room erupted.
I wasn’t surprised; I’ve seen this reaction before. It’s like telling a parent their baby is ugly: stunned disbelief turns to outrage. Then, I shared some insight from a former client who was trying to manage ADHD. They said “when you get distracted or interrupted while doing a task, it takes an average of twenty minutes to recover and get back to the level of productivity you were in before the interruption.”
A Stanford study supported this. Showing that heavy multitaskers performed significantly worse at recalling and sorting information. Multitaskers often switched more from one task to another than people who did one thing at a time. Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers, called heavy multi-taskers “suckers for irrelevancy.” They were so easily distracted. This results in multitaskers being less able to filter out what’s not important than people who were considered light multi-taskers.
Multitasking Lowers your Brain IQ
Not only does multitasking slow you down and waste time, it actually lowers your Brain IQ. The University of London conducted research on this exact topic. That study showed that multitasking lowered the Brain IQs of all the participants. Men especially saw a difference with their Brain IQ dropping 15 points. That drop made them as smart as your average eight-year-old child. I sure wouldn’t want someone like that running my company, would you?
Technology is wonderful, but it has a dark side. In the past twenty years, our attention spans have shrunk considerably. This has made the lure of multitasking irresistible. That, and the “everyone’s doing it” mentality makes people who consciously choose not to multitask outliers.
Then there’s the very real pressure that people feel. The sense of urgency to get it all done yesterday. The decisions that need to be made on a daily basis involving the running of the business are very real and present aspects in the lives of senior executives.
An antidote to Multitasking: Pomodoro Technique
What’s a busy executive to do? “Power Hours”, or focus times, are the antidote to multitasking. You can use the Pomodoro Technique. It is a time management system that breaks the day up into 25 minute increments with 5 minute breaks in between.
Personally, I do “power hours”. These are fifty-minute increments of focused time, followed by a ten-minute break. The average brain can’t focus for more than fifty minutes at a time. The breaks create a state change so the brain can reset before getting back to work. I implemented this several months ago in my own business. Since then, I’ve seen my productivity go through the roof.
Your team may require some education and re-training. This is doubly true if they’re used to having an open-door policy. We recommend encouraging your team to join you. This way you can all focus better. Be sure to track your productivity when you try it.
Check out my video on #Multitasking to learn more about it’s negative effects!