Skip to main content

Multitasking Does NOT Make You More Productive

A study at Ohio State University found that it is merely a perception that multitasking generally helps us to get more work done. However, the researchers said that this perception is wrong and we are confusing emotions with actual fact.

“There’s this myth among some people that multitasking makes them more productive,” said Zheng Wang, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University. She found that multitasking college students are not more productive, "they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”

In an example of students studying by reading a book, she discovered that those students who were watching TV at the same time did not achieve their "cognitive goals" as well, but were still satisfied with the result. However, according to Wang, they felt more satisfied not because of what they actually achieved, but because the TV made the studying more entertaining.

However, the researcher found that we tend to multitask at times when we need to be productive, which may not allow us to achieve certain goals. According to the study, students indicated they were more likely to multitask when they reported an increase in cognitive needs such as study or work. However, the students were still happy with their achievements, since they were emotionally satisfied - a need they did not seek to fulfill. Wang also noted that habitual needs increase media multitasking: People who get used to multitasking are unlikely to change that behavior again.

“We found what we call a dynamical feedback loop. If you multitask today, you’re likely to do so again tomorrow, further strengthening the behavior over time,” she said and added it is a "worrisome" trend: “It is critical that we carefully examine the long-term influence of media multitasking on how we perform on cognitive tasks.”