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Just when you thought multitasking was efficient…. Think again…

Careers and University, The Business of Health, The Health Industry

There was a time when we thought that multitasking was a superpower. We would pride ourselves when we could do two tasks or more at one time, saying it was efficient or that we had a high capacity for concentration. But recent research says that multitasking affects our mind and performance.

In his micro-lecture for Stanford+Connects, Professor Clifford Nass from Stanford University pointed out how different media steals our time. First, media use steals other media time (movies from book, internet from television), then it steals time from non non-information activities in which we use the media when we should do something else. The third phenomenon that is increasingly being seen is media stealing time from face to face communications.

According to Prof Nass the bad news is that it will not stop there. This is because there will be a moment when there will actually be no more time to steal. At that time, media use becomes parallel with other activities. For example:

  • Writing a paper while listening to music and watching a funny cat video.
  • Watching movies and updating statuses for each social network along with replying to all the comments
  • Watching the news on television and simultaneously reading the runner of text at the bottom of the screen.

Professor Nass suggested that chronic multitasking is rewiring the brain of kids, and increasingly adults, resulting in grave consequences. One of his studies on how multitasking affects the brain showed that multitaskers cannot pay attention even when they want to. They are actually very poor at managing working memory and have difficulty focusing on tasks such as writing. Surpringsly enough, they don’t even multitask very well. It turns out people who multitask all the time are worse at it than people who never multitask.

Amanda Griffiths, optometrist and founder of My Health Career said that there was a particular practice she’d locumed in where she identified a sense of not being able to “keep up” with everything that was happening. She says that she often found herself wondering how the other practitioners were working with the constant “squeezing in” of patients and other interruptions to her thought process.

In the same week Amanda had felt as though she wasn’t contributing enough to the practice in which a fellow optometrist had spoken about the time they’d had six patients on the go at once, she watched the “multitasking, unitasking and efficient attention switching” video as part of the Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance course she was enrolled in on FutureLearn. This gave her the confidence to stick to her guns and only take on as many patients as she knew she could handle efficiently and effectively.

The most recent offering of the Mindfulness for Wellbeing and Peak Performance course, available free online from Future Learn started on 15th May, and expressions of interest are open for future courses.

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Image: SerenaWong – pixabay