stop right there...and count how many media platforms you have to hand….
now consider other medium vying for your attention.
Are you listening to music? Are you expecting a door step delivery any minute whilst waiting for the tea to brew?
Juggling multiple tasks at the same time has become the norm but a growing body of research suggests that the constant streams of information from different media sources do represent a relatively new dimension to the multitasking puzzle and could even be harmful to your brain.
An interesting study, published back in October, found that people who regularly use a large number of screen-based or digital devices at the same time may suffer from memory or attention-based problems. The researchers studied 80 individuals between the ages of 18 and 26 and discovered that those who reported higher levels of media multitasking struggle with paying attention or remembering things they had seen and said earlier.
The findings are interesting because we tend to think that young people, raised in this highly connected new world, are super efficient at switching between multiple digital media streams without any negative impact on their productivity or performance. The research is also very timely as many of us are now working from home and perhaps have even greater access to simultaneous streams of unrelated information.
Media multitasking requires rapid and frequent switching between media streams from one task to another and this, as the research found, creates two main problems. Firstly, it increases the cognitive demand on the brain and you begin to make mistakes. Second, tasks take longer to complete and therefore productivity is affected. What should have taken 2 hours now takes 4 because each time the brain is distracted it takes time to restart and refocus.
so what can we change to make technology work for us? and how do we reduce media multitasking?
- Minimise the number of times your attention is distracted away from the task at hand, be it by the notification bell or a phone call, so that individual tasks are completed more accurately and efficiently.
- Since tasks are completed more accurately and quickly when they are done sequentially, businesses can introduce policies that allow and reward employees who single-task efficiently.
- For advice on how to set goals and manage your work day without multiple media interruptions click to our blog on the Pomodoro time management method.
- FInally, managers need to share new research with their teams so that individuals can make informed, personal decisions about how they use technology in the workplace.
Do you pride yourself on juggling multiple projects or tasks but always feel overwhelmed? It might be time for you to try a new way of working and see how it impacts your productivity. Try it and let us know how you get on!