Craig Buckler over at wrote an interesting article about how people that multitask are actually less productive than those that don’t. According to his article, a study conducted over at Stanford University showed that people that multitask have limited attention spans and are easily distracted. People that do not multitask, on the other hand, seemed to score better on the test conducted at Stanford. I can see why this might be true. Given my own experience, I often find myself distracted from the tasks that I’m doing only to discover hours later that I’ve been off an a tangent. But I don’t think that the tests reflect what goes on in the workplace. The test measured memory and how well subjects could recall the information that they’ve seen. Non-multitaskers did better because they could focus only on the specific information they were showed, while multitaskers tried to absorb everything they saw. In reality, in the workplace for example, any multitasker worth the water he’s composed of, would have a system in place that would help him organize and track all the information he encounters. The point, I’m trying to make is that effective multitasking doesn’t rely on memory, it relys on how to deal with information at the appropriate time. So while the study is interesting and has some valid points, I don’t think that it reflects any real world scenarios. In the movie, Memento, Leonard couldn’t create any new memories and yet still managed to find his wife’s killer all because of the system he used to organize information (I know it’s just a movie, but I saw it again yesterday and thought it a relevant example). I’m known for my horrible memory, but I still manage to get a heckava lot done for the simple reason that I have a system in place to help me along.

1 Comment

  1. Yeah? So, where’s techwon? Nah, kidding… You’re right ofcourse, but methinks you should mention that although there’s lot of attacking multitasking now (I read lots and lots of related articles), it has its merits and *some* people (like us) can actually do many things in parallel. Yes, each thing will take more time than if we’d give it all of our attention, but the sum of all things will do will actually get done in a shorter timeframe, whereas a non-multitasker would still have 2-3 things to postpone for the next day.

    Ofcourse, having sleep patterns like mine helps as well (“I won’t sleep ’till it’s done!”).

    But, anyways, to all those “multitasking sucks” types, I say we take them computers and give them C64’s that couldn’t multitask, or restrict their running programs list to one. Let them have to get out of GMail to search in Google, remove all tabs, take away the ability to switch between windows… Let’s see them THEN.

    But then again, we could just give them an iPhone… 😉


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