Lifestyle

Multitasking: A Mind Divided

If you’re reading this on your Smartphone while at a red light as you run errands on your way home from work, where you just spent eight to ten hours going between meetings, Facebook, small talk and paperwork, congratulations. You may not be living the American dream, but at least you’re living the American reality to its very fullest.

Something has happened to us in this modern day era of success-oriented, positive quotes on Pinterest, and motivational speakers who lecture on the importance of maintaining balance while also insisting that you need to “push yourself.” We have convinced ourselves to feel guilty if we cannot complete our To Do List, which may very well consist of 10-30 fairly complex tasks in a limited span of time, with an allotted set of resources, and endless people to please. Maybe you haven’t fallen prey to the trap of this mindset, but surely you’ve noticed its presence.

If you’ve ever been to one of those functions where everyone is playing the catch-up-and-top-that game, you’ve seen the mix of awe (and perhaps jealousy) that crosses someone’s face when they say to another person, “Oh, you’ve been busy!” Doesn’t it feel absolutely elating to be on the receiving end of the grand rhetorical question, “How do you do it all?” And yet, being busy is so different from being productive, in the same way that being organized is not the same as being clean. True cleanliness requires a focus, a gritty and unpleasant effort towards thoroughly expunging filth. Organization, on the other hand, does not negate filth. You can have an atrociously dirty file cabinet, meticulously organized, and no one would come in and dub you Martha Stewart. However, it is quite likely that a clean room will necessitate some degree of organization in the process of washing, scrubbing and tidying up the place.

In the same way, a productive person may well find themselves having priorities which fill up their blocks of time on the calendar. Time management and prioritizing (two huge elements of productivity) are nothing more than tidying up so that you can do your work effectively and efficiently. But isn’t efficiency the whole appeal of the multitasking? Behind all this business of “doing it all” is the grand assertion that you really can get it done faster without sacrificing quality. Like most claims that sound too good to be true, it is. Multitasking, that is—doing more than one task at a time so to increase your supposed “productivity”—will not prove more efficient.

Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor of Communications, revealed some startling evidence against the benefits—or even the possibility—of successful multitasking in a 2013 interview with NPR.

“The research is almost unanimous, which is very rare in social science, and it says that people who chronically multitask show an enormous range of deficits,” said Nass. “They’re basically terrible at all sorts of cognitive tasks, including multitasking. So…in our research, the people who say they’re the best at multitasking because they do it all the time. It’s a little like smoking, you know, saying, ‘I smoke all the time, so smoking can’t be bad for me.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.”

He goes on to discuss their inability to distinguish significant details in problem-solving, a lack of working memory, and even their brains’ basic structures. Yes, that’s right. We are changing our brains with our chronic need to check phones, Google this, tweet that, “like” a comment, et cetera. By now, leading Neuroscientists have proven that our brains possess an adaptation tendency called “neuroplasticity.” In essence, they adapt to better achieve the tasks we require of them. Ergo, someone who focuses on tasks and reads long books will achieve the ability to focus and build up areas of memory (particularly the ability to filter, regulate and apply memory to similar tasks), and improve their overall cognitive health via persistent exercise and usage. On the other hand, someone who regularly switches between one activity and another with high frequency while making few directive and purposeful connections is in danger of rewiring their brain in the opposite direction.

If you look at the CDC statistics on our ever-increasing diagnosis of ADHD in American children, reportedly rising from 7.8% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2007 and 11% in 2011, it isn’t difficult to see that we have trouble brewing. (My impulse to type “…right here in River City” despite the obvious irrelevance of a phrase from The Music Man—due to mere word association—perhaps only proves that my generation is largely a washed up bunch of info-hacks with some type of scatological non-sequitur thought processing disorder.) In any case, whether it’s simply a mix of psychiatric over-diagnosis or a real dilemma in our children’s developing minds, we cannot deny that we are a distracted lot.

According to “The Myth of Multitasking,” by Christine Rosen, senior editor of The New Atlantis, a study conducted by researchers at the University of California found that office workers required over twenty minutes on average to regain prior productivity levels after being interrupted by phone calls or emails. Workers who regularly experienced these types of interruptions also fared poorly on IQ tests, as discovered by a BBC report on Hewlett-Packard studies measuring the IQs of distracted workers versus those who regularly smoked marijuana. In a surprising discovery, “workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers.” Time to light up and chill out, I guess.

One could point to endless studies backing up this crucial point: A mind divided is simply not as functional as one focused on a single mission.

If anyone has read the book “Quiet” or heard the TED talk by Susan Cain, she touches on this topic almost by accident while harping on the values and unique traits commonly found in those labeled “introverted.” She refers to an interview Anders Ericsson, a research psychologist, had with Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, wherein they discussed the ingredients of extraordinary achievement. What Ericsson discovered, through studying groups of musicians and performers, was that those who practiced in solitude made the greatest strides in their skill development. Why? A little something called “Deliberate Practice.” Though the book itself is focused on the element of individual focus, which is easier for introverts (living more in their own heads) than extroverts, the key element here is the lack of distraction. One individual practicing alone will be singularly driven in one mental state. They have a goal of practicing and bettering a certain skill, rather than a shared goal of increasing popularity or impressing those listening as they practice a sonata.

The message here is a fairly simple one. Don’t play your song for the multiple people and interests in the room. Or, if you prefer movie references, think back to the movie City Slickers. In it, the character of Curly talks about the secret of life.

“Do you know what the secret of life is?” Holding up one finger, he says simply, “This.”

Mitch, Crystal’s character, responds like a true smartass, “Your finger?”

Curly doesn’t miss a beat. “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that, and the rest don’t mean shit.”

So forget about those cads who discuss how “busy” they are, and just worry about discovering that one thing. At the very least, try to focus on one thing at a time. The texts and emails can wait as long as you can, so test yourself—and your mind.

 

Photo Source: www.huffingtonpost.com

Comments 33

  1. I just want to tell you that I am very new to blogging and site-building and definitely liked you’re blog site. Likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You definitely have impressive articles and reviews. Thanks a bunch for sharing your blog site.

  2. I simply want to mention I am all new to blogs and honestly liked your web page. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your blog . You certainly have perfect articles. Thanks a lot for revealing your blog site.

  3. I simply want to mention I’m very new to weblog and actually loved your web site. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog . You definitely come with incredible articles. With thanks for revealing your blog.

  4. Wow, amazing weblog structure! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for? you made running a blog look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as the content!

  5. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of area . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this website. Studying this information So i am satisfied to show that I have an incredibly good uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed. I so much indubitably will make certain to don?t forget this website and give it a look regularly.|

  6. You actually make it appear really easy together with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be really something which I feel I would never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very vast for me. I’m having a look forward in your next post, I’ll attempt to get the grasp of it!|

  7. We’re a group of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with useful information to work on. You have done an impressive activity and our entire neighborhood will probably be grateful to you.|

  8. I have been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  9. Hurrah, that’s what I was seeking for, what a information! present here at this webpage, thanks admin of this web page.|

  10. Normally I do not learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.|

  11. Asking questions are genuinely fastidious thing if you are not understanding something entirely, however this post presents fastidious understanding yet.|

  12. Have you ever considered writing an ebook or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog based on the same topics you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would enjoy your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.|

  13. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Thanks!|

  14. Thanks designed for sharing such a fastidious thought, post is nice, thats why i have read it fully|

  15. Nice blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  16. Do you have a spam problem on this website; I also am a blogger, and I was curious about your situation; we have developed some nice methods and we are looking to trade techniques with others, why not shoot me an e-mail if interested.|

  17. This design is spectacular! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!|

  18. Hi there, I discovered your site by way of Google while looking for a related subject, your site came up, it looks great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  19. Great write-up, I am regular visitor of one¡¦s web site, maintain up the nice operate, and It is going to be a regular visitor for a lengthy time.

  20. I know this web site gives quality depending articles or reviews and additional information, is there any other website which presents such data in quality?|

  21. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I’m very glad to see such great info being shared freely out there.

  22. Hey there! I’ve been following your website for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great work!|

  23. This site was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Thank you!|

  24. I’m very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that’s at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

  25. I am actually delighted to glance at this blog posts which consists of tons of valuable data, thanks for providing these information.|

  26. Very well written post. It will be supportive to anyone who employess it, as well as myself. Keep doing what you are doing – can’r wait to read more posts.

  27. I have read so many articles or reviews regarding the blogger lovers however this paragraph is really a pleasant article, keep it up.|

  28. Very good article. I’m dealing with a few of these issues as well..|

  29. Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing on your feeds and even I achievement you get entry to consistently rapidly.|

  30. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on %meta_keyword%. Regards|

  31. Someone necessarily lend a hand to make seriously posts I’d state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I amazed with the research you made to create this particular publish incredible. Excellent activity!|

  32. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. Cheers|

  33. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the enjoyable work.|

Comments are closed.