I see you playing a game during your class. Multitasking? Is that what you call it? Do you think this is a good thing? Better yet, do you think you’re good at it?
Multitasking: dealing with more than one task at the same time
It sounds like a good thing, right? You can get twice as much done in the same amount of time. The reality is that our brains aren’t built for this. Professor Jim Davies goes into detail about The science of multitasking, and why you should doodle in class, but here are the highlights:
If I’m watching a movie and someone texts me, I would miss part of the movie. I just can’t pay attention to both at the same time. This is the reason why people shouldn’t talk or text while they’re driving, even if it’s hands-free. If the driver’s mind isn’t focused even for a few seconds, it could cause an accident. We are living in the Age of Distraction.
Switching back and forth between tasks every few seconds or minutes allows you to focus only a little at a time. And even as you switch, there’s a delay that can cause a drop in performance. Interruptions happen all day that cause people to lose precious time, not just from the distraction but the time it takes to get back on task.
Consider piggybacking instead
Playing a game during a boring class is not a great idea. Doodling could help you stay focused as you take notes. Listening to music while exercising keeps us going through the workout. White noise or instrumental music while studying can help you stay focused.
The rule of thumb? If you need to be really concentrating and thinking, you shouldn’t be doing anything else. The exception is when the secondary task does not detract but actually compliments the primary task.
Let’s say everyone is given the same 100% attention span. If you are doing two tasks, you have to divide your time. You might think you can do 50/50 or even 70/30, but it will never be 100% for both tasks. The task that gets the least attention should be something you can do blindfolded. It should take minimal effort and attention, running in the background of your mind. For example, you could listen to a podcast while you’re cleaning up. My favorite is watching Netflix while folding clothes.
But what if I just can’t focus
This doesn’t work for everyone. There are those that just can’t force their brains to hone in on the task. They start with less than that 100% attention span, whether they have ADHD or simply lack of focus. This is where we need to set the ideal environment and work with your brain not against it. We can start with positive distractions like doodling, maybe sipping water, or get a quiet fidget toy.
The main thing is to be aware of yourself and your performance. Let’s try a few ideas out and see what works. We’ll keep trying until we find a solution together.