Friday, August 22, 2008

Multi-tasking or marijuana?

Christine Rosen in The Toronto Star (2 July 2008: "Can You Finish This Story Without Being Interrupted?") says multi-tasking is undermining our ability to concentrate, pay attention and decide whether or not information is worthy of our undivided focus. Following are a few of her findings with my commentary in italics.
(Pictured: A sufferer of MTS -- Multi-tasking syndrome.)
  • A British study showed people constantly interrupted by e-mails and instant messages did worse in a controlled test than those intoxicated by marijuana. The author said: "The IQ loss…is temporary. Remove the multi-tasking requirement, and test scores jump back to normal." Now think about a teenager (or yourself for that matter) driving, checking messages, adjusting the satellite radio, reading the GPS, and eating breakfast in rush hour traffic. Might as well be high on mari . . . well, we won't go there.
  • Rene Marois at Vanderbilt, exploring the consequences of multi-tasking on the efficiency of the brain, suggests that the more we jump from task to task, the more energy our brains waste. Maybe that's why I'm so tired .
  • UCLA's Russell Poldrack's research found that distraction causes a physiological learning deficiency. Multi-tasking causes the part of our brains used for storing and recalling information to slow down. Does that explain since we got toddlers why I haven't been able to remember bojackdiddly (a vocabulary word I learned from Bruce Ashford's sermon this week)?
The bottom line? For our minds, more is less. Focus and concentration have immense value and are essential for a person to think clearly and work efficiently. That means quiet. Remember quiet? Quite a concept.

The upshot? Multi-tasking is a permanent temptation in today's workplace, but leaders doing too much at once will drain their brains and drag down productivity.

Just a minute. I can't think about productivity and focus and quiet and all that. Too much multi-tasking. The kids are whining, someone just skyped me, the microwave is going off, the cell phone is ringing, I'm trying to finish this post so I can get to my appointment on time, and the UPS man is at the door.