If multitasking harms us, I’m mortally wounded
Think again. If you can. You might not be able to if a new study is right when it contends that multitaskers are actually worse at switching mental gears.
The research was published this week in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences," a journal covering biological, physical and social sciences. Hmm. Sounds like multitasking to me.
According to the study, multitaskers eventually lose their ability to filter out the mental noise of the chirping irrelevancies in our lives. Sort of like when a boss busted me with TweetDeck beeping in the other day. Honestly, I was listening.
The research, conducted at Stanford University, looked mainly at use of electronic media - the folks who "check their e-mail while talking on the phone and sneaking in some online shopping," according to CNN.
I'm still trying to figure out how to do that, because it might be a helpful skill. I think I can now if I talk on the landline, check email on the Blackberry and cybershop the old-fashioned way. I'm thinking of hooking up my desktop computer atgain so I can check a few news sites while I'm at it, now that we have a wireless network that would let me run two stations at once.
Ay, but that's not good, the experts say. It leads to a long-term inability to focus - kind of like the one I experienced in the previous paragraph as my two-computer fantasy took over my brain.
"You're being flooded with too much information and you can't selectively filter out quickly which is important and which is not important," David W. Goodman, M.D., the director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, told CNN. "It only takes a fraction of a second for you to take your eyes off the road and miss the guy making a right-hand turn into your lane."
I'll concede that information flooding has caused long-term erosion in my case, but it wasn't electronic media that did it.
It was a previous job working for an online news site, where the police scanner or instant message quickly made the previous minute's priorities irrelevant. The morning's to-d0 list? Toss it. I still had items that had been pending for more than a year when I left that job.
I've had to work hard in the past year to pull myself back, reverting - gasp! - to good old-fashioned paper lists. They're quaint in a way, but they work. I've also had to limit my social media time, not because it's a distraction but because it's such a pleasant diversion.
None of those techniques works when it comes to housework, though. I just can't muster up the same sense of deadline urgency for cleaning the toilet that I can for finishing an article.
At least now I know why: Multitasking has damaged me. Deal with the dirty house, Dad. I'm defective.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.
- You can’t beat ‘em so might as well join ‘em
- OMG! They’re putting information on the Internet!
- Watch that gmail account at work – someone else might want to watch too
- When it comes to media use, I’m going to go down swinging
- E-mailoholics, raise your hands. But only if you can quit typing long enough