The Myth of Multitasking

If you think your multitasking skills are improving your productivity, think again. Consistent with other multitasking research, a new working paper (ungated version)?by Decio Coviello, Andrea Ichino and Nicola Persico analyzes?a sample of Italian judges with different caseloads and finds that “task juggling, i.e., the spreading of effort across too many active projects, decreases the performance of workers, raising the chances of low throughput, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs.” The authors highlight the role of work scheduling in employee productivity, writing that “[i]ndividual speed of job completion cannot be explained only in terms of effort, ability and experience: work scheduling is a crucial ‘input’ that cannot be omitted from the production function of individual workers.” [%comments]

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team says:

    ALL TASKS ARE NOT EQUAL. For instance composing an essay, playing a violin, writing a letter or reading a critical passage requires full concentration.

    Listening to music or television, innane conversation, drinking a Frappachino, driving, eating, chewing gum or walking only requires partial attention.

    You can be partially attentive to several activities, unless they are a critical creative process like sonata composition. Like all things, all activities are not equal. Activities should be graded on the amount of concentration required.

    There are a few posters on this Blog who by grammar and spelling errors, incomplete logic, poor argument presentation, and poor compostions betray their multitasking activities. –Stick to gum chewing and walking.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  2. Bill says:

    I feel your pain, Drill Team (#1) – my compostions aren’t going all that well, either.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. beverly1212 says:

    Driving requires full attention. Hopefully, I won’t be on the road at the same time as Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Satorical says:

    #1: If you think driving requires only partial attention, you are part of the problem.

    This may be translated as: “Maybe other people can’t multitask, but I’m better at it.”

    No, you’re not. Anyone with that attitude on the road is a menace. Unitask!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. bj says:

    “Listening to music or television, innane conversation, drinking a Frappachino, driving, eating, chewing gum or walking only requires partial attention.”

    A comment like this needs to be evidence driven. in fact, there’s at least one study out there that says that listening to music (by teens) decreases their competence & concentration on homework. There are many studies that show that driving and talking (on a cell phone) decreases driving ability.

    There are individual differences (I for one, would not classify driving as a low attention activity for myself), but there are also vastly inaccurate estimates by individuals of their own distributed attention capabilities.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  6. Jon Lewis says:

    We are to be thankful for the presumptuous commentator who is such a self-judged (and self-absorbed) driver that he does so with only partial attention. Please all, stare in our new found ignorance at the shining glory of his arrogance.

    As a driver who only held a regional SCCA license but did fairly well with 300-495 hp track cars, I am awestruck at the humbleness of your assertion. I commit my full attention as much as possible when I am behind the wheel. That commitment is hardly 100% effective but it is the goal – the safe one for my child, me, and those foolish enough to drive while multi-tasking.

    And as an oil man who’s covered half a dozen southern and western states, I am similarly awestruck by your in-depth analysis of our country’s domestic e&p policy.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. timo buckner says:

    Drill Guy at #1,

    You spelled inane wrong. Stop watching TV and concentrate on your posts!

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. buster says:

    Is anyone really surprised by this finding?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0