The millennial generation is shaping the modern workforce—whether you like it or not. They’ve been blamed for a host of problems, such as being too entitled and obsessed with social media, and credited with several positives, such as appreciating creativity and having higher moral values. But of course, all of this depends on who you ask—some people claim these traits are inherent in the millennial generation, while others assert that they’re attributable to the coincidental youth of this particular generation or exist purely as anecdotal evidence.
We congratulate ourselves on being able to juggle many things at one time. Usually this celebration occurs as we speak to someone over our Bluetooth headset, between bites on a Big Mac while driving. We Twitter while on Facebook, instant message in meetings. Think about other things while we’re doing things.
Then we’re shocked, shocked, when the school proclaims our child has ADHD. Our way of life is ADHD. Soon we’ll be fretting when our kids don’t have it.
We think we can do many things at the same time, but we can’t. It’s simply not true. Human beings can only focus on one thing at a time. Not even computers can do it. They take whatever work needs to be done and break it up into threads so they can utilize tiny time slices on a processor.
People who think they’re good multitaskers, I like to call them delusional, use the reasoning that because they can handle a high volume, chaotic flow of information and requests, they should. But it’s a huge waste of time. Don’t believe it? Check this out.
There’s a game played among young Wall Street analysts, usually late at night after everyone but the janitors have gone home. It goes by various names, but the one I’ve heard most often is “Misery Poker.” The rules are simple: If your workload is worse than your colleagues’, you win. So “I’m staffed on two deals, and I haven’t left before midnight in a week” might prompt a raise of “Oh, yeah? Well, I’m staffed on three deals, and I stayed past 2 a.m. six nights out of the last eight.”
Usually Misery Poker is played with a wink to its ridiculousness. These are 22-year-old investment bankers, after all, not battlefield medics or single moms working three jobs. All of them are being well compensated for the pain they endure. But last weekend, when a London-based Bank of America intern dropped dead, reportedly after pulling three all-nighters in a row, we learned what happens when a game of Misery Poker goes high-stakes.
Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupt—roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms. Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task, says Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, who studies digital distraction.