Summary of “Multitasking Can Make You Lose…Um…Um…Focus …Focus” Alina Tugend

October 30, 2017 Teaching

Since 1990’s multitasking has become a part of all of our lives. Multitasking puts us under a lot of stress and makes us less efficient. It is an illusion that multitasking helps us do different things simultaneously where in fact we are sacrificing focus. Depending on what we do, on the less cognitive tasks multitasking can make us more creative by utilizing different cognitive functions. We cannot divide our attention to different tasks we can just shift it back and forth between tasks. Today’s technology has created a very different world where we are required to do more things in shorter time.

Prefrontal cortex helps us switch and prioritize tasks, and makes us more flexible in our behavior. Multitasking is possible for routine tasks, but brain has an extreme bottleneck for more cognitive processes. It has been tested that when we are faced with many visual stimulants, we only focus on one or two at a time. Also it has been tested that switching between more complicated tasks will take significantly longer time than doing them one at a time. Even though switching between tasks will only take few seconds they will add up.

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It has been shown tasks that require real concentration like text messaging will decrease driving reaction time, even lower than when under influence of drugs or alcohol. In the real world we are constantly interrupted. It has been shown that people are more likely to interrupt themselves than others and when interrupted they work faster but produce less. Maybe because of a shorter attention span we see people working on a document will be interrupted every 12 minutes for no apparent reason. Only 20 minutes of interrupted tasks will lead to a significantly higher stress, frustration, workload, effort, and pressure.

She argues ten and half minutes on a project is not enough to thing about anything. Unlike attention deficit disorder which has neurological basis, attention deficit trait is entirely due to environment. We can control how much we are overloaded by recreating new boundaries, changing our work culture, enough sleep and exercise, and finally teaching ourselves the art of single tasking by focusing only on the task at hand. Finally teaching ourselves the art of single tasking by focusing only on the task at hand.


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