Many of us multitask because we are overwhelmed with daily responsibilities at work, home or school. We try to get ahead by working on multiple things at one time. We may write an email, chat online, and carry on a phone conversation all at the same time. But how well are we doing it? Research is showing that multitasking is bad for us and our brains can’t do it! Below are two interesting articles on what researchers are discovering.
Findings from research at Ohio State University “showed that multitasking often gave students an emotional boost, even when it hurt their cognitive functions, such as studying.” They found that people felt more satisfied, not necessarily more productive, when multitasking.
Clifford Nass, a professor at Standford researched Cognitive and Social Effects of Multitasking and stated in an 2010 interview “…in fact, we’re starting to see some higher-level effects [of multitasking]. For example, recent work we’ve done suggests we’re worse at analytic reasoning, which of course is extremely valuable for school, for life, etc. So we’re very troubled about, on the one hand, the growth, and on the other hand, the essential incompetence or failure…” In one experiment Nass was shocked with the results. “It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking. They’re terrible at ignoring irrelevant information; they’re terrible at keeping information in their head nicely and neatly organized; and they’re terrible at switching from one task to another.”
So what’s a multitasker to do? One idea is to try organizing your day and activities using a To-Do list. We discussed getting organized, setting priorities and using To-Do lists in our Time Management for Students tutorial. Also, try to limit your distractions. Turn off your phone and TV when you need to study or do homework. Close out of your email program completely during part of your day and respond to emails at set times. I need to try this last one… I’ve been back and forth writing this post all morning because I was responding to emails (and working on another project). This post could have been done in 15 minutes had I just turned everything else off!