I used to thrive on being busy, juggling lots of things, getting tons accomplished. What I didn’t realize is that it wasn't always effective, and in fact, problems that occurred later were most likely linked to my multitasking!
We tend to be so busy that we think we need to have a half dozen things going all at once. It is way too difficult to measure the missed communication, the inefficiency and the problems that happen as a result, and so we don’t feel the consequences. When the consequence does arrive, we don't associate it with our multitasking.
While we think we're being efficient, we're really not. In fact, research supports that it is impossible to have your brain focused on two things simultaneously. So naturally you're going to miss something. And the interruptions are inefficient because it takes your mind time to get refocused. The biggest problem is that people actually believe they perform better while multitasking, which has also been proven false. A recent Forbes article goes as far as saying that multitasking can even cause brain damage – whoa!
It might be a lack of discipline for some of us who prefer variety, and get bored with the same ole thing. Admittedly, I still like to switch things up, from household chores to work tasks. However, throwing a load of laundry in while getting a meal prepared takes a lot less cognitive activity than writing this weekly article, preparing for a training, and doing the monthly accounting. I've done my own research and found that with certain tasks, I really am more productive and the quality is better when I'm focused on that one thing – it just takes a lot more discipline for me to do that!
So for you defenders of multitasking, you don't have to give it up entirely. Multitask where it makes sense (where you don't need to think too much or be attentive), and discipline yourself to sit still and focus when you should. Sometimes just the awareness of this is enough to make it happen.