Multitasking redux

A while ago I wrote about multitasking, why it’s bad for you and that I was going to stop doing it.

Well, as soon as I have finished writing this blog post, listening to this podcast, answering the phone and finishing off breakfast I will stop multitasking.

I don’t think I can stop entirely, however. Like many, I find I need to do something else while on telephone conference calls. Early last year there were several reports (e.g., Time) that doodling helps you pay attention, and hence justifies some small niche for multitasking.

In a similar vein, when on the phone for an extended call, I find myself playing with my kids’ lego blocks, and recently I am also doing jigsaw puzzles. I find these activities lead to no reduction in focus on the conversation (unlike doing email). I think this works because neither endeavor taps into the part of the brain needed for language. There is no semantic processing involved in legos or jigsaws. It is all about spatial and visual patterns. My own anecdotal experience is that this doesn’t distract me from listening or speaking at all.

Happy doodling, lego building, jigsaw puzzling!

1 comment:

GS said...

What you are describing is not technically multitasking, but rather self stimulation (with people preferring different modalities...) . A problem with lengthy conference calls is that the level of sensory stimulation (and concomitant cognitive arousal) is limited since all information is conveyed auditorily (unless you are on a webinar).

Fidgeting, doodling and similar activities involve other senses, leading the cortex to maintain the optimal level of arousal needed for effective complex processing.

So, multitasking = still bad, optimal arousal = good (with or without self stimulation)....