Wednesday, June 27, 2007


This is one amenity that I don't want to see at Google - although I confess that I could use it. I've been absent from the blog, and I have been guilty of multitasking.

As the lack of my postings demonstrate, multitasking results in less productivity despite the delusion that more work is being done. There is a large body of evidence that shows that we perform worse when we multitask. The brain by design is limited in concentrating on more than one thing at once. We perform and learn differently when we are multitasking.

Researchers at University of Michigan and Federal Aviation Administration studied patterns in the amounts of time lost when people switched repeatedly between two tasks of varying complexity and familiarity. The results showed that for all types of tasks, subjects lost time when they had to switch from one task to another.

In another study at Vanderbilt University participants were given tasks one at a time and then two at a time. There was a one second delay in response to the second task when the tasks were given at about the same time. There was no delay when the tasks were given one at a time. The one second delay may seem unimpressive, but it can be the difference between life and death in a hazardous traffic situation.

In today's world, multitasking is inevitable. However, it is wise to be aware of multitasking's limitations as well as the personal toll that it takes. Experts suggest turning off the cell phone when driving, ignoring the blackberry when having meals with family and friends, answering email at specific times only, and maybe not lining up 48 hours in advance for the iphone.

References: please see links.

Photo: I've lost the reference. If anyone has it, please send it.


Justin said...

I agree. There indeed is a delay in switching from one task to another since the brain needs to shift its concentration. I once did some mistakes at my work while multitasking. Bad!

By the way, the Add to Google link at the bottom of the sidebar needs updating. :)

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Anonymous said...

Great to see you posting again!

I've seen that pic cited as having come from ( is the link where you can find it). Whether that is the original source or not, tho, I don't really know :)