The Need to Minimize Distractions

 

We all think we can multitask; indeed, the ability to multitask well is considered a skill that some people list on their resumes!  But true multitasking – doing multiple things at one time – only works in rare circumstances.  You can multitask when one of the tasks doesn’t require thinking – like folding laundry while watching TV – or when the tasks use different parts of the brain.  

When you’re shifting between two activities that both require you to think, you’re really task-switching and your brain is not designed to do this well.  It is estimated that shifting between tasks – even when that shift takes only fractions of a second -- can cost as much as 40% of a person’s productivity!  “Studying” with distractions – cell phone, social media, TV, for instance – will take you considerably longer than if you worked without distractions.

Research into how we learn increasingly shows lower academic performance among students who task-switch during class and study, regardless of the students’ general academic ability.  This behavior can interfere with how memories are coded and recalled, and this diminishes your ability to apply knowledge and to retain that knowledge over time, both of which are critical to learning.

Find this hard to believe?  The following articles will give you the actual data behind the research and some hints at working more effectively:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-wise/201209/the-true-cost-multi-tasking
http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx
https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/multitasking-vs-switch-tasking-what-s-the-difference
http://web.psych.utoronto.ca/psy379/Monsell.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2553424/