Yesterday’s New York Times front page ran an article pulling together the results of several recent studies looking at how interruptions and attempts to multitask can affect the quality of work as well as the length of recovery time.
My own feelings on the myth of multi-tasking are well-documented, but it’s fascinating to see research interest focused in this area — although it’s certainly not surprising, given its potential impact on knowledge workers and the industries that employ them. Again, from yesterday’s NYT article:
The productivity lost by overtaxed multitaskers cannot be measured precisely, but it is probably a lot. Jonathan B. Spira, chief analyst at Basex, a business-research firm, estimates the cost of interruptions to the American economy at nearly $650 billion a year…
The information age is really only a decade or two old in the sense of most people working and communicating on digital devices all day, Mr. Spira said. In the industrial era, it took roughly a century until Frederick Winslow Taylor in 1911 published his principles of “scientific management” for increasing worker productivity.
“We don’t have any equivalent yet for the knowledge economy,” Mr. Spira said.