If you have a lot of multitaskers on your team, you may consider that a good thing. But maybe you shouldn’t. Recent research compiled by consultants McKinsey & Co. suggests that multitasking creates at least four negative effects on human beings:

  • It slows us down. We’re not really doing two things at once; we’re switching tasks. Our brains must choose to switch, turn off the cognitive rules for the old task, and turn on the rules for the new one. This takes time, particularly for heavy multitaskers – who take longer to switch tasks.
  • It hampers creativity. Creative problem solving requires us to hold several thoughts “in memory,” so we can sense new connections. When we bounce around quickly from thought to thought, we’re less likely to make those crucial connections.
  • It makes us anxious. Lab researchers have found that subjects asked to multitask show higher levels of stress hormones.
  • It’s addictive. According to Harvard researchers, the increased feeling of connection arising from multitasking creates something like a “dopamine squirt” – the neural effects follow the pathways addictive drugs use.

Source: The McKinsey Quarterly, February 2011.

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