“Classic psychology says our brains can’t do two things at the same time,” said Professor Clifford Mass, Stanford University in the Frontline documentary, “Distracted by Everything” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/). It’s called multi-tasking and most of us do it every day. It may be in the form of watching television and stealing a look at our social media page, or cooking while on the telephone. But can we do one or more tasks at the same time successfully? According to a Stanford University study, the answer is no.
In the documentary, chronic multi-tasking students who did five to six things at the same time were chosen for the study. One student, Brian, said that when he studies, he does several things at one time, including watching Youtube videos, answering emails and texts, and making comments on social media. The study showed that Brian was significantly slower when he was switching from task to task rather than doing one thing consistently. The study proved that Brian and the other students were distracted constantly, were very disorganized mentally, and were worse at analytic reasoning. The study findings inferred that multi-tasking is creating people who are unable to think clearly.
I am guilty of multi-tasking most of my day. When at my computer, I have my phone and Kindle nearby and check them regularly. However, when I want to really focus on something, like my writing, I have to consciously prohibit myself from checking my devices to maintain a clear understanding of what I am doing. Otherwise, it will take me longer to finish a task.
So where do we go from here since we’ve convinced ourselves that we can multi-task? The first step is to admit that we can’t do more than one thing efficiently at a time. Stop, to decide what is important at that particular time, and stick with it, even if it is just for a few minutes. ■