98% of Us Are Multi-failing

As I sit doing my uni assignments, I have a ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ marathon going on the TV, Instagram is open on my phone, and my iPad is next to me, midway through level 125 (the most impossible level) on Candy Crush.

Multitasking at it’s finest…or maybe not as fine as I think.

I will admit, I’ve written about 3 sentences in the word document, I can’t remember any of the photos I’ve liked on Instagram, and I have no idea why Kim is crying. I’m clearly not completing any of my activities well, yet I continue to do it day after day. According to studies by the University of Utah, only 2% of people can successfully multitask (2012). So while you might like to think you can juggle your life will sipping a Martini, chances are you probably can’t.

Here is a multitasking test:

1) Spell aloud, letter by letter, “Jewelry is shiny” at the same time as you write your full name.

2) Spell aloud, letter-by-letter, “Jewelry is shiny” and then, after you are done with that, write your name.

If like me, you found this quite difficult then I’m sorry but you are not a multitasker. If you found it surprisingly easy then congratulations, you’re in the 2%! Maybe you can make a Facebook status about it while making a coffee and learning to juggle?!

If multitasking is “a person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time” and I clearly cannot do that, I began to wonder what was I doing earlier. After reading many articles, a statement by Aza Raskin stuck with me, “we cycle through tasks in quick succession” (2011). The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I wasn’t really doing any of those activities at once; I was just focusing on each individually for a very short amount of time.

The Multi-tasking Test, a research project by ABC Science and the University of Queensland, stated that the human brain cannot perform tasks at lightning speed like a computer, therefore it needs time to switch between tasks, comparing multitasking to channel surfing between television stations (2011). Multitasking gives the impression that you are completing a larger amount of activities in a shorter amount of time. The appeal is obvious. But as the researches and studies on multitasking are increasing, so is the idea that it may be more harmful than beneficial. A study by HP found that when a person was distracted by incoming calls or emails, their IQ dropped by 10 points, which is double the effects of smoking marijuana. By studying brain activity, researchers have found that we are unable to successfully focus when multitasking. While you may be doing lots of things, you aren’t doing any of them well. Some studies showed productivity dropping by 40% when multitasking.

It seems that focusing could reduce stress and make you more productive; therefore I am setting up my own multitasking or ‘speed swapping’ experiment. Next week I will write my next BCM240 blog post without multitasking. I will switch off all other distracting devices and set myself a deadline and compare it to my process this week. While I’m sure next weeks post will be completed a lot faster, there’s nothing like an inspirational (but cringe worthy) Instagram post to keep you going when you’re ready to give up! #motivation

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Sources

ABC Science, University of Queensland, 2011, What is multi-tasking?, Multitasking Test, viewed 11 September 2014, <http://www.multitaskingtest.net.au&gt;.

BBC News UK 2005, ‘Infomania’ worse than marijuana’, BBC News, 22 April, viewed 12 September 2014, < http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4471607.stm&gt;.

Naish, John 2009, ‘Is multi-tasking bad for your brain? Experts reveal the hidden perils of juggling too many jobs’, Daily Mail Australia, 11 August, viewed 12 September 2014, < http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1205669/Is-multi-tasking-bad-brain-Experts-reveal-hidden-perils-juggling-jobs.html&gt;.

Raskin, Aza 2011, Think You’re Good At Multitasking? Take These Tests, Fast Company, weblog post, 4 January, viewed 12 September 2014, < http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662976/think-youre-good-at-multitasking-take-these-tests&gt;.

Sundem, Garth 2012, ‘This Is Your Brain On Multitasking’, Psychology Today, 24 February, viewed 12 September 2014, <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-trust/201202/is-your-brain-multitasking&gt;.

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