Beneficial or harmful – Multitasking for software developers

by Aripriya Basu December 31, 2020
Multitasking for software developers

As a teenager or as a new recruit you must have heard about multitasking. 

Back in school days, you were perhaps given regular lessons about it and now, when you have piles of work on your table, you have resorted to it. 

We all have. 

All of us are multitaskers to some extent. 

While this concept was greatly subscribed to at one point in time, today there are debates about its usefulness. 

While one group of people think it’s useful another group thinks that it’s detrimental to productivity.

But before you make up your mind about multitasking for software developers, there are a few things that you should consider. 

What is multitasking?

Before you can decide the pros and cons of multitasking for software developers, let’s first know what’s the deal with it. 

The name explains the concept best – multiple tasks that are done together. 

You do some of this daily. You know like listening to music and washing the dishes, or maybe attending a con call while grooming your pet. 

You must have done at least one of those during this Work from Home new normal days. 

But these are pretty basic stuff that does not require your mind to work and your brain to lift weights. 

However, multitasking for software developers is difficult since it requires intellectual operations and not muscle memory. 

So is multitasking for software developers effective?

There is no one or straight answer to this question. 

It depends on who is asking because:

Not everyone is great at multitasking

You may have seen your fellow developer working on a complicated code while listening to music or playing COD. 

You might have tried it as well. But the outcome was not worth talking about maybe. 

You might have as well filled the code with error and have lost the match too. 

It’s OK.

Not everyone is a multitasker

Your brain prefers consecutive operations and is not ready to switch constantly. 

People who can multitask, on the other hand, have perhaps convinced their brains to work in waves and fits. 

It’s not an issue for them to switch attention between two tasks. 

But don’t think they are better than you in any way only because you can’t.

Multitasking for software developers has its issues too. 

If your fellow colleague can quickly switch between two or more tasks, he/she might be susceptible to distractions too. 

In fact, very often they are too prone to it. 

Make the slightest noise in the bay and they are all popping up their heads in annoyance. 

So that brings us to the next stage of multitasking for software developers.

Is multitasking for software developers worth it?

Even if your project manager, team lead, mentor, high school teacher, and mother have told you all about the benefits of multitasking, you need to take it all with a pinch of salt. 

Why? 

Because your brain does not function to the whims of your well-wishers. 

As per neuroscience, the brain is incapable of doing multiple works simultaneously. But it can make a quick switch between tasks. 

Think of it as a switch with quick on/off options. Now, what happens if you flick the switch too many times?

It breaks of course. 

The same applies to multitasking. This on and off thing between two tasks becomes tiring with time. 

“But it’s a small displacement” you may think. 

It is indeed. But combine 100 or more such displacements over a day. All these add up to slow your performance rate by almost 50 percent. And you have the environment to blame for multitasking for software developers gone wrong. 

Don’t think multitasking for software developers is only time-consuming, it is also energy-consuming as well. 

You may just line up five tasks maybe, say listening to music, working on PPT, reading up the monthly report, and doing the dishes.

But switching between each of these tasks will cost some resources. 

But if multitasking for software developers is out of the question, what do you do? 

Well, you can try doing two tasks consecutively. 

But do set time for each task individually and see how much time you are taking to complete each task 

Then go on to calculate the total timing and compare the results. 

This is the best way to see if multitasking is taking away too much of your productivity. 

Now, so far we have talked about multitasking in general and whether or not you should do it. 

But multitasking for software developers is not a choice as such. It’s a necessity. 

Since their work involves the use of multiple tools and software, it would be very impractical to advise them to quit multitasking. 

They cannot possibly do that. 

Think about software developers:

Their task is to : 

  • Processing the available information to identify the problem
  • Coming up with the best solutions using that information
  • Testing the solution to ensure it solves the problem

All these tasks are closely packed together and must be done together. Thus multitasking for software developers is a part of their daily job. 

One operation cannot be performed without the other.

Unless the term multitasking has two separate meanings!

One definition is very on the face, conducting multiple tasks together in a given time frame and performing two or more tasks together in quick succession.

Both of these are required in software development. But programmers do not have the choice to switch between tasks. They have to just get on with it. 

Multitasking for software developers is required for both productivity and quality of work. So, it’s a given that multitasking for software developers is essential. 

But not too much of it though. Any elixir should never be over abused and the same applies to multitasking. 

The decision to multitask should depend on your project. If your work assignment does require you to do more than two things at once go for it. 

But learn to tell the necessity from evil.

Don’t multitask just because you can. 

Instead, focus on things that can help you grow vertically. 

FAQs

What are the positive effects of multitasking?

  •  Enhanced efficiency: If you have difficult goals, you can achieve them in less time if you are good at multitasking. 
  • Increased productivity: Not every task generates revenue. Some are just daily tasks that do not require a lot of consideration. Multitasking while tending to their work can reduce the time required to get them done. Thereby one will have more time to do other work. 
  • In addition to these two very important benefits, multitasking enhances resilience and flexibility.

What are the most common examples of multitasking?

  • Serving food while talking to guests
  • Exercising while listening to music
  • Preparing more than one dish at a time
  • Writing an article while conducting research
  • Taking down notes during a meeting

Is multitasking unhealthy?

No, it’s not, but too much of it can cause mental fatigue in the long run. Though people say it’s productive, research shows that doing one task at a time is better. However, certain job roles might require one to multitask, in that case, multitasking in moderation can be practiced.