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Friday, August 24, 2007

Multitasking or Mistake?

Think you can answer a cell phone, drive your car, and respond to a text message all at the same time? You may think you are adapt at multi-tasking, but are you?

What are the results of recent research?

• David Meyer, a Michigan psychologist found that people who multi-task don’t accomplish more, they slow down their tasks.
• There is a significant amount of time lost shuffling from one task to another
• Shuffling tasks varying from complex to familiar and back again may add 40% more time to a task
• Meyer says it takes time for the brain to shift gears and move to a different task, no matter what you may think
• Multi-tasking actually increases the chances of mistakes
• Muti-tasking can slow down our response time, and that slowing down can be dangerous when we are doing something like driving

Many people won’t believe this research and believe they really can do it all at any one time. Can they?
• Use this typical example… count from one to ten, and of course that comes very naturally and quickly. But, try to add a task and add one number and then one letter of the alphabet in sequence. Like 1 A 2 B 3 C 4 D--- notice how much more time it takes to work through the two varying tasks and integrate them. This should easily prove my point. You might be able to be efficient in doing the task, but your performance usually suffers.

What are some suggestions for multi-taskers?
• Only check your email once an hour at work. Try to focus on one task for 40 -45 minutes before a break. ((our concentration limit is about that amount of time)
• It usually takes 15-25 minutes to return to a task when interrupted, so turn off distractors, close your office door, or listen to music with no lyrics.
• Take brief breaks during the day which include deep breathing or trying to meditate and being mindless.
• Try to schedule difficult tasks for your most productive part of the day and save routine tasks for times when you might get more interruptions.


Diane Vespa said...

Someone once said to me "It's funny how you never have time to do something right in the first place, but there is always time to do it over". I think of that advice often as I am multi-tasking, fully realizing that makes me prone to mistakes!

joymiller said...

thank you for the wonderful insight!