Q:While I was reading your response to the question about focusing on mutiplte tasks, I started thinking about multitasking. Does it work?
A:For years I've argued that multitasking is not an efficient way of handling multiple tasks. I recently read an article in Scientific American Mind called the Limits of Multitasking. This article contains the research to prove what a very wise person once told me. You can not truly CONCENTRATE on more than one thing at a time. Your mind oscillates between the different tasks.
Here's a quote from the article "...a growing number of studies show that trying to juggle jobs rather than completing them sequentially can take longer overall and leave multitaskers witha reduced ability to perform each. In addition, the stress associated with multitasking may contribute to short-term memory difficultie. The combination results inefficiency,sloppy thinking and mistakes-not to mention the possible dangers of divided attention for drivers, air traffic controllers and others who handle machinery."
I know, I know. What about individuals like Ray Charles and many other artists singing and playing the piano at the same time? Or how about someone who has been typing for years, talking to people while they are typing? These are routine, automated, and pretty much unconscious tasks. Up to a certain point multitasking works with routine tasks. However, you might want to read the next part of this article.
"Walking and chewing gum may work out. But you can strain your brain-or, more precisely, your attention resources-when you try to combine a routine, automated task (such as reading) with one that demands conscious control. Called interfernce or the Stroop effect... The Stroop effect thus demonstrates how two psychological processes, running parallel, colide with each other."
Here's an example of interfernce or the Stroop Effect. Name the COLOR of the following words. Do not read the words only name the COLOR. Do this as fast as you can.
red blue orange purple green black yellow pink brown
A lot of people get tripped up on at least a few because reading is routine. When you stop reading to figure out the colors it slows down the whole process.
Obi Wan Kenobi says that "Only a Sith would speak in absolutes" so I won't say that multitasking doesn't work. However it is not as effective or time-saving as concentration.
By the way, for you non-Stars Wars fans, a Sith is a person who uses the dark side of the force.
Copyright 2005 Al Duncan Enterprises. All rights reserved.
Copyright holder is licensing this under the Creative Commons License, Attribution 3.0.
Please feel free to post this on your blog or email it to whomever you believe would benefit from reading it. Thank you.
Reprint rights of this entire work are granted under the following conditions:
1. Please forward the location & nature of the reprint to Al Duncan Enterprises. firstname.lastname@example.org
2. If using electronic media, provide a direct link to the download (if applicable) or first page of this article.
3. The following byline must be used if this work is reprinted in its entirety.