The researchers found that people caught up in multitasking constantly crave information but don't do well at processing it all. They referred to two distinct ways of receiving information: exploring and exploiting. Explorers (multitaskers) get a thrill from more and more data, while exploiters would rather ponder the information at hand. What about simply being faster at switching to a different task? Well, the researchers also asked the participants to classify a letter as a vowel or consonant or a number as even or odd. Indeed, even while trying to switch between questions the high multitaskers were slower. Much slower. No doubt to their amazement.
Their conclusion? For most of us, the more gadgets, the more distractions, the less effective we are. Does this mean we have to go through life in a purely linear fashion, fully completing every single task before taking on the next one? Of course not. Some multitasking is unavoidable. (As the father of an infant I know all about trying to accomplish as much as I can in a short amount of time.) But are other people questioning your productivity even as you feel busier than ever? The point is to keep tasks manageable and to a minimum. Rank their priority. Be efficient in following each task through to completion, rather than piling on more. Know your limits and recognize when multitasking is becoming detrimental. For example, send that e-mail to a colleague first, then check any incoming text messages. Take that phone call and then update your calendar.
Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Sieberg From the book THE DIGITAL DIET by Daniel Sieberg, published by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.