Most of us need some degree of focus in order to get things done. Perhaps it is even one of the most important aspects of how we successfully accomplish what we are so good at.
But, many people have so many different things going on at the office that they rarely get a longer stretch of uninterrupted time during which they get to focus on one single task, but need to switch between assignments often. When this is the case, we need to be able to shift task and focus quickly without losing momentum and direction.
One (new) thing at a time often
A study conducted by the Stanford researchers Ophir, Nass and Wagner compare the ability to focus on a task as well as the ”task-switching ability” between ”heavy media multitaskers” and ”light media multitaskers”.
So what is then ”media multitasking”? It is what we do when we have several channels open or active at once, where the channels in question could for instance be TV, streaming video, music, sounds that are not music, computer games, chat/instant messaging, SMS, email, webb browser tabs, computer programs (such as Word or the likes), and actually printed text as well.
The great amount of media slows us down
The study showed that those who media multitask a lot had greater difficulties focusing and were more susceptible to distracting external factors, than those who rarely multitask with regards to information input. Not a major surprise there, if you ask me. But, what might be more surprising is that the heavy media multitaskers found it much more difficult to switch between tasks than the light media multitaskers.
So, if we want to be able to focus properly and switch between assignments with ease, we will be wise to media multitask less.
Throughout the day today, notice how many channels you have ”going on” simultaneously. Do you have more channels active than you need or perhaps should have? Turn off, shut down or put away one or several media channels or devices so that you from this day forth do not have more than you can handle open and active at once.
At the end of the week, make a point of noticing how this has made a difference to you.
If you still want many channels active simultaneously, you can at least minimize the negative effects by taking proper breaks, something I have written about in a previous edition of Done! (Done368).
Fewer channels for more focus
Judging by the study I mentioned, you will find your focus faster and switch between tasks with grace and ease if you media multitask less than you usually do. How that might help you, your work and your business, is up to you to find out.
But Ophir, Nass and Wagner also emphasize that there might be research coming proving the exact opposite to be true and which indicates positive effects that we are not yet fully aware of, so who is to say media multitasking is all bad.
What’s your way?
Have you recently done away with some ”channel” which you now close down every time you need to focus? Did it make a difference to your concentration? Please write a comment and share how you have cut back on media multitasking.