Multitasking "implies that we are focusing on two things at once," psychiatrist and author Edward Hallowell said in an article in Management Today. "That is cognitively impossible" [source: Kirwan-Taylor]. Multitasking is not necessarily a way to increase productivity. In fact, experts now think that the distractions and bursts of attention involved can lead to a mild form of attention deficit disorder [source: Kirwan-Taylor].
Technology is always offering people new ways to multitask -- from tablet computers to smartphones. These can be great ways to save time and work more efficiently. But if not used wisely, they can also become time-wasting distractions. A survey by America Online and Salary.com found that 44.7 percent of employees consider "surfing the Web" to be their biggest time waster [source: Leland/Bailey].
When you're multitasking, make sure that trivial tasks do not drown out important ones. If you check your e-mail during an important staff meeting, for example, you might miss an important point in the meeting while you're distracted.
Also, keep in mind how others view your multitasking. Talking on your cell phone at your child's ball game shows you're not really interested in watching him play. Similarly, glancing at an incoming text message while holding a conversation with a colleague may appear rude.
The best use of multitasking is to fill in dead time. You can answer e-mails in your doctor's waiting room. During a long commute, listen to recorded books or make calls using a headset. Catch up on your reading while exercising on a treadmill. Pay your bills as you watch television.