Sunday, May 30, 2010

Multitasking or One Thing at a Time?

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Are you a multitasker?  I know, I know, who isn't nowadays?  I see people in the supermarket trying to pay for groceries, have a cell phone conversation, and control their kids, all at the same time.  I know my students are taking 5-6 hours to do their homework every night because they are also trying to text friends, watch TV, or listen to music.

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But, being familiar only with how my own mind works, and that only sometimes, I can tell that when I am forced to do more than one thing at once, the things don't get done well.  Or as well as I would like them to.  It is much more satisfying to the perfectionist in me to have the luxury of focusing on one task at a time, for a nice, uninterrupted stretch, until I either finish or get tired enough to need a break from it.

I have known this since my meditation studies at UCSB, but this nice, clear video from cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham explains why we can't do two things simultaneously as well as we can do one.

What is your style--doing several things at once, or one thing at a time?  How do you think this is working for you?