From DCM’s forthcoming book –
While it would be wonderful if it were true, it seems that our brains are not built to handle everything we would like them two at once. They can manage two tasks at a time, but only really do one well. Research by Eyal Ophir at Stanford University, confirms what organizational development experts, educators, and neuroscientists continue to discover: multi-taskers do a significantly worse job than non-multi-taskers at analyzing bits of input to filter out irrelevant information. “They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers. “Everything distracts them.”
They take longer than non-multi-taskers at switching between tasks and are less accurate. Concentration, focus, and analysis? Awareness goes missing.
Which of the following activities temporarily reduces IQ by 10 points?
a. Smoking marijuana
b. Watching a bad sit-com
c. E-mailing while talking on the phone
d. Losing a night’s sleep
According to a study by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, the correct answer is C. Researchers studied 1,100 workers at a British company and found that multitasking with electronic media caused a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot, losing a night’s sleep, or ingesting mind-numbing television. 43% of adolescents report that they typically use 3-5 devices, either for gaming, texting, listening to music, watching TV, or talking, at a time. 47% of adults read or write e-mail while talking on the phone, watching TV, or with music playing in the background.
Observing how multi-tasking is interfering with productivity, Intel is now helping its engineers “think better” by rescinding an old policy requiring that messages be answered within 10 minutes, which they concluded was blocking the “free flow of deep thought.” In Clifford Nass’s book, The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships, he reported that college students constantly distracted by media are seriously compromising their brain’s ability to focus and think. A professor at Stanford in communications, Nass says, “There is definitive evidence that those who multitask process information much worse than those who don’t. They are much less able to ignore irrelevant information and less capable of managing the information they do take in. And, even after they’ve put away the media devices, their brains still behave like they’re in multi-tasking mode.”
Not convinced yet? The state of constant effort that multi-tasking requires of our brains puts them into overload, causes a steady stream of stress hormones, and triggers a vicious cycle. Where we work hard at multitasking, we feel pressured, and (remember the addictive nature of dopamine) compelled to do even more.
With points only for consistency, multitasking test subjects are overall, significantly less effective at whatever they do, and we are no different. We can talk and drive a car, and we can do homework with our iPod playing and while checking Instagram, but under those circumstances the quality of all the endeavors will be seriously compromised. Dave Crenshaw sums up the reality of multi-tasking in the title of his book, The Myth of Multitasking: How “Doing It All” Gets Nothing Done.
Coming down off centuries of highs derived from authentic, dopamine-rewarding accomplishments of exploration and endurance, now, like the junkies we have become, we make ourselves ever sicker on lower-quality, cheaper drugs. We eat, spend, and entertain and stress ourselves, mindlessly pursuing any source of dopamine we can score. How do we get this money off our back?
As with cocaine and amphetamines, the withdrawal is not for sissies. When work, travel, family responsibilities, exercise programs, commutes, homework, email, tweets, texts, and internet or video play keep minds and bodies in motion at all times, it is dopamine that keeps the machine revving in the red-zone. De-toxing from dopamine is comparable to kicking a cocaine or amphetamine habit – only the addictive substance is different. Getting off the clearly identified street or prescription drugs may actually be easier.