Multitasking – The Myth and the Truth

20 Feb Multitasking – The Myth and the Truth

“Fatal Accident Result of Texting While Driving” – Who hasn’t seen the increase in sad stories related to this hazard? Many states have enacted legislation which bans the use of cell phones while driving an automobile, and what parent doesn’t worry that their new driver will be tempted to pick up a pinging cell phone as they sit behind the wheel? In all honesty, what adult is not tempted or even engages in this way?

With the busy lives most of us lead, multitasking seems to be necessary to keep up the juggling of jobs, kids, sports, family obligations and all of the other commitments which seem important and necessary. However, multiple studies show that multitaskers suffer a loss of productivity, an inability to focus deeply on significant tasks, and in fact, that the mere presence of multiple technology sources is a guarantee of reduction in performance and productivity.

A 2009 Stanford study discovered “resumption lag” among heavy media multitaskers, indicating that individuals who habitually interrupted their work flow to briefly check in on pinging devices and newsfeeds were less efficient and took longer to resume focusing on the original assignment, thus less successful and productive.

This becomes particularly debilitating for children, who need time to think in depth not only about doing a task, but about HOW to approach it and perform the work in the best way. Students who are bombarded by constant interruptions tend to begin the work and try to finish as quickly as possible, but not spend time determining the best path to the goal. Learning is a disciplined process which requires commitment and focus.

Parents can help their children establish good study habits and reduce stress about schoolwork by minimizing distractions at study time. Determine a routine of time and space and designate these as device-free. It may be reasonable to allow a break, but make it brief. Keeping to this structure will require some oversight until it becomes habitual. Discipline does not come naturally, but is a life skill that can be learned. Model focusing by putting your own device away during the face-to-face interactions you have with your family when you return from the workday and around the dinner table.