Is Multitasking Bad for the Brain? – Part Deux: Singlecasting
Some time ago you would remember how I put together a post over here, in this blog, on the topic of Multitasking and how bad it is for the brain, eventually. In it, I shared a bunch of links on this very same subject, including a video interview from Gary Small, Professor of Psychiatry and Aging at UCLA’s School of Medicine, which you can watch over here, where he explained a few of the reasons why we should all avoid multitasking at all costs, since it is harming us more than helping out. That blog entry seems to have generated lots of interest and some really good commentary. So I thought I would pick it up again and share with you folks another interesting set of links I bumped into that I think would be worth while mentioning and discussing further, because, after all “Multi-Tasking *is* Bad For Your Brain. Here’s How To Fix It“.
That’s actually the title of the article that Chris Albrecht put together just recently over at GigaOM where he is referencing another video interview that I think you would all find rather interesting and very thought-provoking. In it Stanford professor Clifford Nass spends about 8 minutes talking about several things, including team building, human-computer interaction, and the dangers of multitasking, as well as our inability to do it properly, no matter what we would think about it.
Chris himself summarised, quite nicely, what you will find on that rather enlightening and educational short interview, and I thought it would be a good thing to include it over here, just to give you a sense of what you will learn, while watching it:
“What computers and T-shirts can teach us about team building
How his team got people to actually like Microsoft’s Clippy (I know! Impossible, right?)
The dangers of multi-tasking and what is the optimal method for modern day workers”
You will be able to find the video clip over at the following URL and for those of you who would want to watch it right away, here is the embedded code so you can start playing it, right as we speak:
After you have watched it, I am sure it is going to leave you with plenty of doubts and everything else, specially as you get to examine your own multitasking habits and decide whether it makes sense or not. However, I am sure that, based on previous blog posts that I have shared over here, there would be plenty of folks out there as well, who would be pretty much in agreement with Nass’ insights on how damaging multitasking can well be for all of us. I particularly found rather inspiring not only his insights about team / community building, but also his views on the impact of randomly (positive) reinforcements (Which, by the way, clearly affects not just how we make use of email and instant messaging, but also various different social networking tools!).
It surely describes pretty nicely how our brain seems to be rather enticed by that thought of attempting to multitask, yet it keeps failing time and time again. We also seem to have a tough time making choices and sticking around with what is relevant and forget about what’s irrelevant. And somehow we keep cheating on ourselves on the fact that we can multitask effectively, when Research shows we are pretty bad at it. Nass’ commentary on these particular topics is actually fascinating and worth while watching (Second half of the video interview).
What I really liked about Nass’ insights is not only the really helpful tips that he shares towards the end of the interview on how to avoid multitasking, but also how simple it actually is to stop it altogether! Yes, that’s right. he mentions how by us making choices and picking up chunks of time in between 15 to 30 minutes we are capable of achieving more with less. Then we are able to focus plenty more on the tasks at hand, one by one, and we can swiftly move from one to the other, which is when multitasking starts to really take place!
I tell you, it’s one of those video interviews you would need to watch in its entirety, as I am sure you would enjoy it quite a bit. More than anything else because of the emphasis that he places on making the successful switch from multitasking to singletasking, which clearly reminds me of another rather interesting, and very relevant, article I bumped into not long ago from Lifehacker titled “A Case for Singletasking: The One-Task-At-a-Time Method“.
The blog entry put together by Jason Fitzpatrick comes to discuss “The Allure and Trap of Multitasking“, which provides another handful set of insights on why multitasking is bad for our brains. What’s interesting from Jason’s article though is the good number of benefits he mentions for singletasking. To name:
- “Singletasking forces you to sustain your focus and work through complex problems
- Your stress levels will fall
- You’ll get better at managing your time
- You’ll get more done, one task at a time, than you could have even imagined when you were “multitasking””
And to top things even further he concludes the blog post putting together some rather helpful tips on how to get things going with singletasking, which I can surely recommend having a read, if you would want to have a better grasp of your day to day productivity levels. I am loving it, too! In fact, I have been loving it for a good number of weeks already as I have consistently reduced my multitasking activities to just a few and focus on that singletasking capabilities that The Pomodoro Technique provides me in a consistent manner.
Yes, that’s right! In the past, I have blogged about how The Pomodoro Technique is helping me reduce multitasking effectively to the point where I have become rather dependent on this technique to get most of my work done with less effort, less stress and with a huge sense of achievement at the end of the day, when before I always had that feeling of “I didn’t really achieve anything today, did I?“.
So now that we are finally killing the idea of our brains being capable of multitasking, as it looks like we can’t, and, in fact, it’s not even healthy for us at all altogether, I am surely glad that The Pomodoro Technique is helping me make that successful transition from multitasking to singletasking in small bursts of 25 minutes, which is what I have it set up for, as mentioned by Nass himself; and, funny enough, the great thing about doing this is that I am also applying it to all of my social networking activities. I make choices, I set up the timer, I go for it! And time and time again it seems to be working rather well. That sense of a stressful day just trying to catch up with it all is now long gone! Thus why multitask when you can singletask effectively? Are we making the right choices as we get exposed to more and more data by the day? Do we still need to keep up with that false sense of achievement that multitasking claims to provide more often than not? Are we giving in to that social pressure we all need to continue multitasking at our workplaces, just because our colleagues are doing the same? Well, I am not sure what you folks would think, but, to me, that’s no longer the case, and I feel much much better that way, regardless of what that social pressure keeps claiming with its beliefs in successful multitasking…
No. Thank you very much!