Multi-tasking lowers productivity

I have to multi-task. I am the bottle-neck for too many problems already and my team needs input from me before they can continue in many areas.

But I know it doesn’t make me efficient. Switching between tasks takes time. You forget important details, and struggle to get the depth of understanding and focus required for complex issues. The cross-pollination of ideas and solutions doesn’t come close to making up for these drawbacks.

From the research:

Descriptive evidence suggests that judges who keep fewer trials active and wait to close the open ones before starting new ones, dispose more rapidly of a larger number of cases per unit of time. In this way, their backlog remains low even though they receive the same workload as other judges who juggle more trials at any given time.

Did you read those magic words? “…backlog remains low…” I don’t know anyone who doesn’t wish for the luxury of a shorter backlog of work.

The paper itself is fairly complex, analysing theoretical models of human task scheduling.  You should probably add it to your pile of things to read in the middle of other work.

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.