In Part one of the series on multi-tasking, we examined the reasons why many people multi-task. Let’s now shift our focus to examine the next important question related to multi-tasking: Can the brain effectively do to two things at once?
While multi-tasking can give a false illusion of efficiency, it significantly hinders our ability to apply sustained focus and attention to each task. Recent evidence from 2010 at the University of Queensland in Australia indicates that individuals experience a fundamental bottleneck in their capacity to perform multiple conscious activities at the same time. This bottleneck occurs in the frontal cortex, which acts as a stopping location, preventing the brain from processing information from multiple tasks simultaneously.
When this research is applied to learning and the workplace, there is one underlying truth: The brain can only focus on one task at a time. At this moment, you probably have several screens open on your desktop(s), but your brain is able to think about only one at a time – You are rapidly switching your attention back and forth among a number of different activities.
This also helps to explain the difficulty people experience when they drive and text simultaneously. Therefore, we must use good judgment. Better awareness and focus must be employed when one is propelling 4,000 pounds of steel. Texting is absolutely not wise.
Considering the evidence, how confident are you that you are effective when multi-tasking?