Is Multi-tasking All It's Cracked Up To Be?
Multitasking has become part of the productive professional's persona. Walking through business corridors, through airports and while driving, the professional is constantly communicating with the mindset of communicating or learning critical informa
Multitasking has become part of the productive professional's persona. Walking through business corridors, through airports and while driving, the professional is constantly communicating with the mindset of communicating or learning critical information or making important decisions that just won't wait. But how necessary is all this communication and besides the benefits what disadvantages does multitasking provide?
According to Earl K. Miller, Picower Professor of Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, constantly switching focus as one multitasks makes it harder to focus on a single task. The distracted mind is less focused. The dangers of using a cell phone or text messaging while driving have been widely publicized. President Obama, the most connected president in history and the first to have a personal computer in the Oval Office, has banned federal government employees from texting while driving. Even when using a hands-free model, talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as drunk driving according to a University of Utah study.
The laboratory arena
Multitasking can be physically dangerous in the laboratory if staff members are talking on a cell phone while conducting a potentially hazardous experiment or walking through the lab while someone else is working at the bench. While I haven't seen this, I have seen people talking on cell phones while walking into laboratory corridors and colliding with other people and even walking into walls.
The upside of multitasking is the increased productivity it is thought to provide. However, constantly switching focus can make it hard to concentrate on a single task. Multitasking can interfere with solving difficult problems and reduce creativity.
According to Professor Miller, signs that you are multitasking too much include:
- - Difficulty paying attention
- -Inability to relax or sleep disorders
- Build-up of clutter from the work projects you have not finished
- Ignoring your own needs to do things for others
- Repeatedly putting off the little things that need to be done
- Lack of creativity
One issue in the multitasking debate is how much mental and physical attention tasks require. While multi-tasking the brain gives priority to one activity at the expense of another according to Michael Bloxham, director of testing and assessment at Ball State University. For example, many people watch television while doing other things such as engaging in conversations or reading. However, watching television is widely regarding as a passive activity.
Is multi-tasking a myth?
Some researchers say that we aren't multi-tasking multi-tasking - doing more than one thing simultaneously; we actually are switching rapidly from one task to another. According to neuroscientist Miller the brain simply can't focus on more than one thing at a time. One reason for this is that similar tasks compete to use the same part of the brain.multitasking
So while multitasking has its place, when one is trying to focus on a time-consuming task or one requiring all of one's knowledge or creativity to solve a problem, it's best to do things the old-fashioned way and focus on one thing at a time.