It Doesn't Work


Reading e-mail, sorting data and talking on the phone at once - multitasking clearly saves time in a fast-paced world. Or does it? Anybody who expects to get ahead today better master the art of multitasking, right? A recent study of employees by the Families and Work Institute in New York City finds that some 45 percent of U.S. workers believe they are asked or expected to work on too many tasks at once.

Their bosses might be surprised to learn that they are actually wasting their workers' time. As it turns out, the human brain cannot truly ape the computer's knack of crunching data in the background while toggling among processing windows. Instead a growing number of studies sow that trying to juggle jobs rather than completing them sequentially can take longer overall and leave multitaskers with a reduced ability to perform each task. In addition, the stress associated with multitasking may contribute to short-term memory difficulties. The combination results in inefficiency, sloppy thinking and mistakes - not to mention the possible dangers of divided attention for drivers, air traffic controllers and others who handle machinery. Recognizing the problem, New Jersey became the second state (after New York) this past July to ban drivers from using a cellphone without a headset.

How can a time-management strategy that has become part of the common wisdom actually be so off base? To explore that question requires a closer look at an area of consciousness research that examines how the brain focuses attention.

So, check out the Premier issue of Scientific American Mind to get all of the details. And, in the meantime, let the e-mail site while you work on that presentation. After all, a certain satisfaction comes from a job well done.

Source: Scientific American Mind, Premier Issues, 1204,

In this issue: other interesting articles include: How Group Think makes Killers; Treating Depresssion: Pills or Talk; and How Best to Treat Children with ADD to mention a few.

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It is said that women are multitaskers and men are more single task oriented. It's the difference from being scattered and being focused. - Gordon Clay

The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time. - Richard Cech

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