While you might think your ability to juggle several tasks at once is a valuable skill, it likely is only hurting your performance in the workplace, one business professor argues.
That's why those looking for work should reconsider including "multitasking" as a skill on their résumé, according to Baylor University professor Anne Grinols.
"Employers are more interested in outcomes than efforts," Grinols said in a statement. "Multitasking refers to the latter."
After conducting research on multitasking, Grinols uncovered several myths about the "skill" that make employees think it is providing more benefit than it really is. The three myths are:
1. Employees believe they can focus on two mental activities at once. Grinols said there is both conscious and unconscious accomplishment of assignments. The unconscious happens when you have completed a task over and over again and you tend to go on "autopilot" while working on it. You don't give it the same proactive attention as it might deserve.
On the other side is conscious mental activity, which happens one task at a time. For example, if you are texting during a meeting, you likely won't hear and pick up on everything being discussed.
Grinols said the problem is that when employees go back and forth between two conscious mental activities, they lose some time and efficiency of brain function that robs them of effective accomplishment of one activity, or both.
2. Employees believe they can go back and forth between mental activities and stay on top of both. During her research, Grinols found that multitasking often leads to poor results and burnout of those trying to do it for an extended period of time. In the workplace, it's often the results that matter more than the process.
"A good process is more likely to result in consistent, good results; so process matters," Grinols said. "But it matters precisely because of the results, not on its own account."
3. Employees believe they can monitor themselves when multitasking. By trying to multitask at the wrong times, you risk hurting your performance. For example, if your assignments are to develop a new strategy to accomplish a goal and also to participate in a team meeting, don't start thinking about the strategy while in the meeting. Grinols said when your mind starts wandering between tasks, your participation in the meeting, which includes listening to the input of others, will suffer.
"You must focus on each one separately to be able to succeed at an optimal level at both," Grinols said. "Employers expect optimal-level accomplishment."
Based on her research, Grinols said she would avoid using the term multitasking on her résumé.
"Instead, I would indicate expertise in multiple areas, timely production and excellence in outcomes," she said.
Grinols serves as the assistant dean for faculty development and college initiatives in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business.