Multitasking May Change Thinking, Behavior

Despite playing Sudoku, reading and engaging in other mental activities, I’ve found myself forgetting names and other important information, if only for a moment. I’m really not that old but it was definitely beginning to bother me.

Then I discovered that friends and colleagues were having the same problem. And it’s all because we’re multi-tasking, at least according to scientists who say “juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave.”

The New York Times recently ran an article about the topic. The scientists also say “our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.”

I spent a week consciously paying attention to whether I multitask. It was worse than I realized. For example, one evening while watching TV (I at least stayed on one channel), I also caught up on Facebook, answered emails and viewed one YouTube video. On one set of commercials I hopped up to wash dishes. On another set, I watered plants.

That is only one of many examples. So I’ve made a conscious decision to multitask less. I’m not going to eliminate multitasking, but I can definitely reduce it. I put my cell phone in my purse in the trunk so I can’t access it while driving. Now I’m focused on the road.

If I watch a movie, I turn off the lights and put the laptop away. The only thing I’m doing is watching the movie.

It’s an adjustment, but, you know, I am more relaxed and my concentration seems to be improving. Either that or the Sudoku is finally paying off.

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4 thoughts on “Multitasking May Change Thinking, Behavior

  1. Shelly says:

    PBS aired a great special that included research from MIT and Stanford regarding the “effectiveness” of multi-tasking and what it is doing to our brains. The show, called Digital Nation, can be viewed on line at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/digitalnation/view/

    It is a 90 minute show, but the website has it divided into chapters by topic. I used it as a conversation starter in my Mass Comm class this Spring and was amazed how many students agreed that multi-tasking is actually a problem for them and technology is an addiction. Interesting.

  2. Tammy says:

    I’ve felt exactly the same way. I’ve had trouble remembering names of things that I know I used to know — and it’s disturbing to say the least. I’m trying to prioritize, also, and hope to stop being so much of a workaholic.

  3. MARY LOU HINRICHSEN says:

    Thank you for information that struck home—not so much for me as for my son who is struggling with his memory and can’t figure out why, as he, like you, is not that old.

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