Friday, July 04, 2008

Stress, Burnout and Multitasking

Stress, Burnout and Multitasking

“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”

That’s what Lord Chesterfield thought about multitasking almost 300 years ago. Do his words contain age-old wisdom, or are they hopelessly outdated in our world of uber-technology?

In 2005, a research study conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, reported that, “Workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.”

I only have one question: did the designers of the research study check the participants’ working style (in particular, whether their preference for information processing was simultaneous or sequential)? At a guess, they did not, or the result would have looked totally different.

(To find out whether you are a simultaneous information processor who thrives on multitasking, or a sequential information processor who does not, please have a look at

So why is that important? In simple terms, we cannot measure all people with the same yardstick, nor should you compare apples and pears. To say that multitasking is bad for a person’s productivity is like saying that everybody should wear shoe size 11 because that’s the most comfortable shoe size around.

Yes, it’s true that, for some people, multitasking leads to stress and burnout.

It’s equally true that, for some people, concentrating on a single task results in boredom, creativity block and poor productivity.

Our Working Style Analysis tools can help you determine your optimal working conditions. Do you know whether multitasking is good for you? Do you know whether the light at your office makes you lethargic or irritable? Do you know your working style? If not, here’s how to find out.

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