Several months ago I was on the phone with my sister and got repeatedly distracted during the conversation. Although we customarily chat while doing a chore, she could tell my attention was more divided than typically. She paused and said, “You know, Carol, multi-tasking doesn’t work. It just makes you feel like you are accomplishing more when you try to do several things at once.”
I have thought about this often during December. Regardless of the countless studies that scan the brain and provide evidence that humans can only perform tasks sequentially, as a mom during the holidays, I know better. Multi-tasking is not a myth, it’s a must.
An often-cited Stanford study on multi-tasking was performed on university students. It measured their ability to filter irrelevant information, manage working memory and switch from one task to another. The study concluded that multi-taskers were worse than focused taskers at all of these. I was disappointed by the results and a bit skeptical.
The study’s conclusions were based on multi-media measurements using a sorting problem with blue and red triangles. I would like to see a practical study performed using a group of moms responding to real-life scenarios. In a narrow timeframe, require the subjects to make dinner while assisting with homework, paying bills, checking email and answering the question, “Where is my practice jersey?” Then the scientists will get my attention.
Read the complete blog post at https://permissionslips.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/multi-tasking-mission-impossible/ My colleague Linda Williams Rorem and I update our blog weekly.