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How MultiTasking Makes You Dumb


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Think that having magnificent multitasking skills is a sign you are a smooth and smart over-achiever?  Are you one of those high powered power thinkers that believes doing only one thing at a time is a WASTE of time? 

So too was I…..until I learned I really would be better off working stoned.…than trying to to do too much at once, as I think most of us, especially those of us who work in creative fields, tend to do.

As a matter of fact, considering that I DO occassionally work stoned, and tend to multitask as well, I’m probably really playing with fire when it comes to the IQ I bring to my work.  (something many people reading this may think is NOT news..:-)

All kidding aside….I was listening to this great and really informative lecture by Tal Ben-Shahar on happiness, productivity and finding a healthy balance in life and play, and he cited some great studies on how we mistreat our brains and bodies in pursuit of doing the work we love…that I found really quite striking.

I highly recommend watching the whole video…..it WILL make you think twice about some of the ways we work in the world….and what we prioritize in terms of getting our goals.

BUT – what really struck me, being someone who has a lifelong problem with attention and concentration and focusing on ONE thing rather than letting my brain bump and jump and leap and lurch in a zillion different directions at once…….is the research they’ve done on IQ levels and multi-tasking that he quotes in the video….and the blog post I dug up to look a bit closer below discusses as well.  (and links to the actual study I believe, to boot)

Honestly – I can’t ever remember not having my cell phone/email/toaster oven/judge judy/ouija board/xbox and an avalanche of other distractions on simultaneously while working, and shudder to think how many points I’ve shaved off my working IQ in the process.   (not counting how many other “not recommended” activities I’ve mixed in along the way…:-)

Check it out – it’s very interesting stuff – and a great entertaining, inspirational talk all around as well 🙂

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“A study done at the University of London found that constant emailing and text-messaging reduces mental capability by an average of ten points on an IQ test. It was five points for women, and fifteen points for men. This effect is similar to missing a night’s sleep. For men, it’s around three times more than the effect of smoking cannabis.While this fact might make an interesting dinner party topic, it’s really not that amusing that one of the most common ‘productivity tools’ can make one as dumb as a stoner.The idea that conscious processes need to be done one at a time has been studied in hundreds of experiments since the 1980s. For example, the scientist Harold Pashler showed that when people do two cognitive tasks at once, their cognitive capacity can drop from that of a Harvard MBA to that of an MBA to that of an eight-year-old.

Multitasking Makes You Dumber « Annie Murphy Paul

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