I have argued extensively in my book ONE: The Art and Practice of Conscious Leadership that multitasking is inefficient, and sends a signal of disrespect to others when we multitask in their presence.
Multitasking squeezes the “slow time” out of our lives – the time we all need to reflect, regenerate, rest and heal. It causes us to overfocus on the small and the mundane and thus prevents us from dreaming, visioning and expansive thinking. Nothing great can ever be achieved while multitasking. In multitasking, we sacrifice intimacy, replacing it with technology, even while we labor under the illusion that we are communicating with each other. The brain is wired in such a way that we simply cannot do two things well at the same time. (This article from the New York Times amplifies these thoughts with strong empirical evidence). Conducting a symphony while using a Blackberry will result in doing both poorly. Nothing worthwhile can be done well while simultaneously conducting another task. Thus, whenever we mutitask, we are choosing to be mediocre.
Inspiration comes from many things, and one of them is mastery. But because multitasking breeds mediocrity – the opposite of mastery – it leads to a loss of inspiration.
Multitasking is an effective practice for those wishing to remain mundane, uninspiring and with an empty e-mail in-basket. But being an inspiring leader requires one’s full attention.