To Multitask, or not to Multitask…

Multitasking – art of listening to music and staring at your smart phone, whilst walking down the street… with your dog… eating lunch.

For academic purposes, multitasking is referred to the ability to execute more that one task simultaneously. Whilst the human brain is capable of pursuing multiple goals at once, the advancement of technology is allowing individuals to do more tasks simultaneously. But is this a good thing?

Studies show that individuals of all ages perform worse on cognitive tests when juggling tasks. Along with slowing you down and increasing the number of mistakes you make, multitasking also temporarily changes the way your brain works. Apparently, dividing attention across multiple activities is strenuous on the brain, thus limiting the amount of real productivity. According to Live Science, the brain is designed to handle balancing tasks that use unrelated mental and physical resources, thus allowing us to repeat them without question. But when things become more complicated, such as acquiring a new skill, we are unable to perform to the best of our ability when multitasking.

According to Faculty Focus, students are way too convinced that multitasking is a great way to work, particularly due to the easy access to all sorts of technology. Students strongly believe that they can execute multiple tasks at the same time without compromising the quality of their work. Whenever I’m on my laptop attempting to do Uni work, I always find myself procrastinating and distracting myself from the task at hand. In this sense, I view “multitasking” as a form of procrastination as I become less productive. Rather than focusing on one particular task, I always find myself doing an assignment or homework whilst either listening to music, watching a TV or movie, or checking my phone and social media.

Another highly researched example of multitasking involves texting or talking on the phone whilst driving. The popularity of mobile devices has been linked to a significant increase in distracted driving, resulting in injury or loss of life. A study conducted by the University of Utah showed that motorists who talk on mobile phones are as impaired as drunk drivers, and are also five times more likely to be involved in accidents than undistracted drivers. This particular study places much focus on talking and driving, as they are mutually exclusive as the same part of the brain is used to focus on a phone conversation and the road. This is further reinforced by a study conducted by NRMA, which set out to provide evidence that sending text messages has a detrimental effect on a number of safety-critical driving measures. During their research, the NRMA concluded that text messaging negatively affected driver’s ability to maintain lateral position and to detect, and respond appropriately to traffic signs.

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