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How to Waste Time: by Multitasking March 28, 2007

Posted by edukfun in attention training, education.

I don’t know about you, but I find the world a little too fast these days. Hectic, frantic, frenzied are other words that come to mind. Juggling too many things? Think multi-tasking is good for you? Think again.

A recent article in the New York Times (“Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read This in Traffic”) summarizes research on the limits of multitasking.


Neuroscientists and psychologists have discovered that we benefit from not multitasking so much at work, doing homework, or while driving a car.

The brain cannot concentrate on two things at the same time. Distractions and interruptions hurt our ability to process information. Cognitive scientists are saying that multitasking slows you down and increases mistakes.

Here’s one quick example: It took Microsoft employees who were interrupted by email or instant messaging while writing reports or computer code an average of 15 minutes to return to their work.

What did people do after being interrupted? Things like answering other email or browsing the internet. Sound familiar? It sure does to me.

Here’s another example: Research at Oxford University compared two groups (18-21 years olds versus 35-39 year olds) performance on a simple task. One would think the younger generation, with their iPods, instant messaging, camera phones, etc., would be better at multi-tasking. But not really.

“While the younger group did 10 percent better when not interrupted, when both groups were interrupted by a phone call, a cell phone short-text message, or an instant message, the older group matched the younger group in speed and accuracy.”

The older group, it seems, “…had faster fluid intelligence with which to block out interruptions and choose what to focus on.”

At Sparks of Genius we use a combination of software to train the brain for success to improve cognitive skills. Children and adults can learn to improve attention stamina. They can learn to stay on task and not respond to distractors. The result is an ability to ignore distractions and interruptions, stay on task and successfully complete the task.

“[When I am interrupted,] it sometimes takes me as long as an hour to get back on track.”

At dinner the other night, a friend of mine confirmed the problems of multitasking and has decided to work more at home, where there are fewer interruptions. A brilliant thinker and programmer, he said something like, “It sometimes takes me as long as an hour to get back on track. Not only do I waste time and energy, but multi-tasking is not good for my health. ”

I don’t have time, energy or health to waste. Do you?



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