The Myth of Multitasking

Posted by M ws On Thursday, May 8, 2014 0 comments
Here's an article written by a blogger/FB friend who is a lawyer, writer and fitness trainer - Daniel Chandranayagam - published in The Sun.

I SPEND a lot of time in traffic. So when I upgraded to an iPhone last year, I was joyful. "I can entertain myself, like other drivers!" I thought. After all, I have seen many people texting, surfing the Net, reading e-books in traffic jams. What a way to not waste time.

Bad idea! I am bad at multitasking. And lifting my phone, even in static traffic, stresses me out. So the phone remains where it is as I watch people enjoying their traffic jam, while I twiddle my thumbs.

I never understood how multitasking makes one more productive. If someone talks to me while I am on the computer, I have to stop what I am doing and then divert my attention to the speaker.

Research has shown that the human mind is not meant to multitask. A 2009 Stanford research study got college students to complete experiments that involved switching between tasks. The researchers expected frequent multitaskers to do well.

However, the results revealed the inverse. Regular multitaskers did badly at all three tasks. Even more damning was that only one experiment involved multitasking. This indicated that even when they focus on a single activity, multitaskers use their brains less effectively. So much for being productive.

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller found that when there is a group of visual stimulants in front of us, our brain can only focus on one or two items.

Miller found that when we try to concentrate on two tasks before us equally, it causes an overload of the brain's processing capacity, especially when we try to perform similar tasks at the same time because they compete to use the same part of the brain. This results in the brain slowing down.

Wait, it gets better. University of London psychiatrist Glenn Wilson found that even thinking about multitasking can cause a jam in our brain. He found that being in a situation when we are able to text and email can knock 10 points from our IQ, similar to a brain-fog caused by the loss of a night's sleep.

A study reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology revealed that multitasking caused the release of stress hormones and adrenaline. This might lead to a downward spiral, working hard at multitasking, taking longer to get things done, feeling even more stressed, and then feeling compelled to multitask more.

But we do have a choice. What happened before multitasking? We did things one at a time. And perhaps that is the way we were meant to live.

There was a time when I would try to do many things at once, especially in the morning. The day would inevitably end up like those few moments – frantic, stressful and unhappy. I have exchanged multitasking for mindfulness. I attempt to live moment by moment. And usually my days pass with far less stress and far more happiness than before.

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