As I start writing this post, I’m also brainstorming, talking to a friend, adding to my to-do list, outlining a project, remembering what groceries I need to pick up and eating lunch. Chances are, I’ll finish this post later, while I’m watching the news or catching up with my sister or a friend on the phone.
Young workers today are accustomed to the always-on-go, do-several-things-at-once mode. Growing up, Gen Y had schedules so full, weekdays lost their names and became things like “Soccer Day” and “Piano Lesson Day.” Post-high-school was no different, and we’re still going strong as we begin our careers. We can eat, write, watch TV and have a conversation all at the same time without a giving it a second thought.
In popular terms, we are expert multitaskers. We’re by no means alone, but it’s a skill we bear proudly as a badge of honor. But, as we enter the workforce, we face some interesting challenges – work isn’t exactly the same as catching up with our MySpace friends while watching the latest episode of Lost and eating dinner. Each time an e-mail pops up, a new idea hits us, the phone rings, a boss or co-worker wants to chat, or a training opportunity comes up, we quickly turn our attentions to it.
The problem with this is, to the typical office worker, it seems like the distractions and interruptions never end. You don’t seem to have time to even start that project your boss gave you three weeks ago and said, “let’s meet once you’ve had time to work on this,” never to mention it again. Even though we are great at multitasking, it seems almost impossible to get everything done because of all the interruptions. And there are a lot of them. According to a report from Time on research at the University of California, the typical worker can be interrupted every 11 minutes.
The other problem is, most of these daily distractions fall under the umbrella of “work,” but that simple fact doesn’t make them easy to manage. Sure, we can check our e-mail while typing up a memo and reminding our co-worker that word he’s thinking of. We are doing a lot at one time. But, for some reason, the work always seems to keep piling up. So, does the “skill” of multitasking actually help us better manage our time?
Read the rest at Employee Evolution.