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Myth of Multitasking and Productivity Debunked on The Guardian Podcast

Myth of Multitasking and Productivity Debunked on The Guardian Podcast

The most valuable employees in the workplace are not necessarily the ones who seem busiest, according to Ryn Melberg on her weekly podcast, The Guardian. In fact it is more likely that the exact opposite is true. The Guardian Podcast with Ryn Melberg can be heard on iTunes, Soundcloud, or at www.rynmelberg.com. 

Agile And Multitasking
When multitasking the brain is split. Instead of getting the full frontal cortex that uses both sides of the brain, we only get half of it. When focused in Agile, more gets done. That is why coaches ask their Agile teams to focus, to get more done sooner. Focus on one user story at a time. Humans are more successful when focused where multitasking goes against human design.

One Thing At A Time
According to Ryn, workplace and scientific studies demonstrate that humans are not able to do more than a single task at a time because of the way the brain is engineered. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain used for focus and attention. “The brain will pay attention to what it perceives as the most important,” Ryn said. “That is not to say that we cannot chew gum and walk at the same time, but those activities do not occur in the prefrontal cortex. But we are not able to give our full attention to more than a single thing.” So those who are multitasking are essentially doing more than one thing a time very poorly. Overall, this is very bad for a lot reasons. 

Here Is What You Missed
Those who multitask at meetings are likely to miss whatever it was they were called to the meeting for and will end up asking about a topic that was already covered, thus wasting their time in the meeting and the time of the person whom they must ask. “If someone is bored while at a meeting or not interested in the subject matter then they should probably not even be there,” Ryn said. 

Not The Brains’ Fault
Ryn does not blame the individual or the species for this oft-perceived shortcoming. “It’s not your brains’ fault, it’s the workplace that is at fault, she said.” According to Ryn, the performance of knowledge workers is still measured with industrial metrics. “In the age of piecework, counting the number of things that could be done in a finite amount of time was important whether how many cars were made, acres planted or houses built,” Ryn said. “That is why people will talk about how many emails they have or how many meetings they go to. We still count productivity based on a industrial economy. There is a lot of make work we do to prove how productive we have been, but we are measuring the wrong thing.”

Banned From Meetings
It is not uncommon for leaders to ban multitasking from meeting and to send offenders packing. “It’s not only unproductive, it is incredibly rude and disrespectful of the other people in the meeting to divide your attention,” Ryn said. “If there is something you need to do that is really that important, better to excuse yourself from the meeting than be asked to leave. 

To contact Ryn Melberg, go to her website at www.rynmelberg.com.

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