Multi-tasking ExplainedMay 9th, 2012
Well, kind of. First up, let me admit to chronic multi-tasking. I’m always doing 10 things at once, even though I’ve read research that says multi-tasking isn’t productive. I remember reading one article about the subject, only to notice I was simultaneously watching the news on TV and eating dinner. Fortunately, I can focus when I need to, but it seems like my default position is to do many things at once.
I’ve seen how multi-tasking affects your performance. When I lived in New York City, you could always tell when someone walking along the sidewalk decided to check their phone because all of a sudden, things would slow down. I thought they should designate a phone lane, like a slow lane on the roads. To me, it was a clear example of how multi-tasking didn’t make you more efficient, but less efficient.
So, even knowing what I know about the inefficiencies of multi-tasking, why do I still do it?
Fortunately, some new research has the answer. It gives an emotional boost.
Professor Zheng Joyce Wang from Ohio State University looked at the behaviors of 32 multi-tasking students and asked them to record their media and non-media activities three times a day for 28 days. The study found that multi-taskers felt more entertained or even relaxed from multi-tasking despite the fact that their cognitive needs weren’t met. Wang said some students who studied while watching TV said “they felt satisfied not because they were effective at studying, but because the addition of TV made the studying entertaining. The combination of the activities accounts for the good feelings obtained.”
Of course, it depends what task you’re doing. It’s easy to cook dinner and talk on the phone, but harder to write a blog while watching TV. But it might make you feel better about it.
Photo Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1265083