Talking on the phone while driving? Not a good idea. Texting while driving? Really not a good idea. But even seemingly benign multitasking, like chatting with a friend while sending a work email, isn’t as efficient – or harmless – as we might believe. A recent study published in the journal NeuroImage revealed that when we attempt tasks simultaneously, we end up doing neither as well, because our brains have cognitive limits. We may think we’re doing two things at once, but our brains are actually toggling between them.
What’s more, we’re less efficient even after we’ve shut down email and turned off our phones. In an experiment at Stanford University, US, a group of students was asked to spend 30 minutes simultaneously compiling a music playlist, chatting and writing a short essay. A second group focused on each task individually for 10 minutes each. Afterwards, they were given a working memory test. The single-taskers significantly outperformed their multitasking peers.
So how can we repair our powers of concentration? We spoke to some successfully single-minded experts to reveal their tricks for breaking out of that multitasking habit and sharpening your focus for a less frazzled life.
Feb 9, 2012