Multitasking vs. doing one thing at a time

Is multitasking more effective than doing one thing at a time?

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The modern-day workplace is characterized by an increasing level of complexity and versatility. Long past are the days when employees were paid on a piece-rate basis, and, other than that, they did not care much about doing additional tasks during their shift.

Nowadays, employees need to be multitaskers, in one way or the other, otherwise they will find it hard or impossible to cope successfully with job requirements. The economic recession and the intense competition that companies face in the business environment, has led to job cuts, which means that the same tasks must be accomplished by a lower number of employees.

Therefore, multitasking is an inevitable necessity for modern-day employees.

However, there is a critical question that should be answered on that issue: Is multitasking more effective than doing one thing at a time?

First of all, any business project has a completion horizon, and thus, the role of time pressure is important in choosing to apply multitasking, since “doing one thing at a time” is considered an unaffordable luxury.

On the other hand, if a manager urges employees to undertake many tasks simultaneously, they may never have the chance, or enough time, to finish them all. So, multitasking can have the effect of leaving things unfinished. In some cases, it would be more preferable not to start new things at all, if there is a high possibility of not finishing them. In this sense, “doing one thing at a time” seems to have certain advantages over multitasking, since it results in finishing one task, and then proceeding to the next one.

Finally, multitasking can become an extremely complicated process, when, for example, finishing one task is considered a prerequisite for starting another, and as a result, this can delay the whole project.

Further reading:

The many benefits of doing one thing at a time

The pros and cons of doing one thing at a time

The simple trick to productivity? Do one thing at once