If I could give you an easy way to be more productive in your working life, would it be worth a try?
Recently-published research from Stanford University (Ophir, Wagner and Nass) indicates that people who identified themselves as high multitaskers did not do as well at filtering irrelevant information, organizing memories, or switching from one thing to another as low multitaskers did.
UCLA researcher Russell Poldrack found that students focused on learning a specific task out-performed those multitaskers who were distracted. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) testing further indicated that different brain systems were involved for each group, and that “there was a cost to switching back and forth” for the actively multitasking group involved in learning new information while distracted. University of Michigan researcher David E. Meyer notes that switching the brain from one task to another can be incredibly time consuming.
From the historical point of view as far back as the 1890s, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education article, researchers found that while some are better able to concentrate while distracted than others, “Beyond a fairly low level of multitasking, everyone’s performance breaks down.”
Paradoxically, while most of the plethora of current research strongly concludes that, for a variety of reasons, multitaskers do not perform as well as their more focused counterparts, “Heavy multitaskers are often extremely confident in their abilities,” Stanford’s Nass said. Yet, “they’re suckers for irrelevancy,” and “Everything distracts them.”
“They’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” Stanford’s Wagner continued, and “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”
What does this mean in the business situation? Two things: (1) It’s possible that by focusing; and (2) by cutting distraction around you, you could actually be more productive, while seemingly doing less.
At a practical level, a single focus, and lack of distraction may be very close to the impossible dream, given today’s rapid-fire, multitasking work environment.
Try dedicating your workspace only to focused work – saving personal email, face book, Twitter, and LinkedIn – for personal time and space at home.
If you are a home office worker, establish and observe definite work hours, and dedicate a definite space used only for work.
More free business writing tips from Gail Tycer are available here, and information about Gail’s Effective Email, and other business writing workshops is available here.
© 2013 Gail Tycer • www.GailTycer.com