Why Multitask?

The rapidly accelerating pace of life requires us to carry out much more than one job per unit time. At work we have to keep the books without making a single mistake and simultaneously answer scores of phone calls. At home (this mostly refers to women) we have to cook, clean, wash, parent, manage finances, sometimes without letting go of a phone that is ready to ring any moment.

The rapidly accelerating pace of life requires us to carry out much more than one job per unit time. At work we have to keep the books without making a single mistake and simultaneously answer scores of phone calls. At home (this mostly refers to women) we have to cook, clean, wash, parent, manage finances, sometimes without letting go of a phone that is ready to ring any moment.

Finally, the diversifying technological ambience caters to some minor and less paramount challenges like having to browse a tablet or smartphone and watch TV simultaneously. Simply put, life seems to set us more tasks than we can physically (and mentally!) handle. What should we do to come through all that without sacrificing part of our physical strength and sanity? The answer is: multitask!

Face the challenge!

Multitasking is carrying out several activities at the same time. Given the growing pressure at home and at work, this sounds like an increasingly appreciated and demanded ability. However, different people demonstrate different multitasking capabilities, and, it appears, not everybody can keep up. There are a number of methods, which can help you survive the rigors of today’s life.

  1. Plan your day. Deadlines are increasingly tight, and meeting one is even more important. It takes a bit of planning and evaluation. Not infrequently, tasks seem easier to make within a set period of time than they are. When going for one, it is advisable to allow for an extra hour or so, because there are lots of distractions. Your success depends on your ability to quickly switch from work to other matters and vice versa.
  2. Switch your attention between your current and oncoming tasks. If you have been straining over a difficult one, it is advisable to take a break and focus on another less challenging project for a change. This will be like a portion of fresh air for your brain, and you will show better performance after returning to your current task.
  3. Alternate between several tasks of similar difficulty levels. Thus you will get your attention to jump between assignments and thus train it to do it quickly and precisely. You can make a list of your most important jobs and outline a plan for today. This will teach you to be more organized.
  4. Prioritize! Needless to say, you may have several jobs, which have different significance. Once you have gone in for multitasking, it is the right time to learn to tell a really urgent and promising task from a less important one, and do it right now!

Who does better in multitasking?

Multitasking has raised a heated scientific debate and laid a basis for research. Studies have shown that women tend to outperform men when it comes to doing more than one job at the same time. A team of scientists conducted a so-called Stroop test, in which participants were asked to read words denoting colors, which were written in colors not matching the names (for example, “green” was written in red ink, etc.) The test revealed better performance in men than in women.

Another experiment involved men and women running on treadmills and doing a linguistic puzzle. The test was to estimate the movement of the right arm, because this function is regulated by the left brain hemisphere, as are language functions. Men’s movements looked more confused. Many scientists attribute this discrepancy to the influence of estrogen – one of the main female hormones.

Another team of scientists offered men and women to imagine a situation, in which they would lose keys. They were offered to draw search paths. Women came up with rectangular routes, which would cover a larger patch and therefore were more likely to lead them to their lost keys, than men, who submitted circular, spiral, or totally chaotic patterns.

We are getting better at it!
 Notwithstanding the difference in multitasking performance between sexes, which is quite arguable, other scientists note a significant improvement regardless of sex. According to some sources, this may be related to having to process an increasing amount of information, which we receive in multiple channels. This appears to be an effective drill for multitasking. Given the fact that multitasking is about switching attention, not activity itself, there are reasons to believe that the training is working!

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