Jack of all trades, master of none: the multitasking 'myth'

Jack of all trades, master of none: the multitasking ‘myth’

Jack of all trades, master of none: is ‘multitasking’ a myth?

Multitasking has become a recruitment buzzword, as employers want to focus in on candidates who have the most to offer and try to get the biggest bang for their buck.

Variety at work is also a key element for many job-seekers looking for fulfilling and interesting positions. However, scientists have repeatedly called multitasking a myth and there is evidence to suggest that workers who try to constantly do several things at once may actually be less efficient as their focus is drawn in too many directions.

A study by Stanford University which compared the performance of two groups of students found that the multitaskers fared worse. This was put down to multitaskers being more reactive and more easily distracted. Multitasking is also mislabelled; researchers say that we are not really doing several things simultaneously but actually switching quickly between each process, for a heavy multitasker this would typically be 5 or 6 things, which leaves more room for distraction and error. With the exception of semi-automatic functions such as walking, humans are not good at undertaking several tasks at once. The Stanford study actually found that the multitaskers were less able to focus and took longer to complete the tests they were presented with.

This leaves us wondering how best to go about things when a typical role in a modern work environment requires us to divide our focus between many important jobs. iHR Australia’s Managing Director Stephen Bell believes that multitasking is a predominantly learned skill which requires practice. “For a lucky few it may be an inherent skill but for the majority, effect multitasking is learned in the formative years at school. With age, learning the skill becomes more difficult but not impossible.”

iHR tested this by taking a ‘tongue in cheek’ look at a typical day in the life of our team member Ray Burns. We took some time to record Ray’s many roles and discovered that our long-suffering Product Consultant has got all the important bases covered. Not content with being a golfing expert, Ray takes a hands-on approach and gets involved with distribution and domestic duties. Multifunctional, multi-dedicated, multi-awesome, good work Ray.