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You’re Not Multitasking – You’re Doing Several Things Poorly

Photo via Flickr/ryantron (CC BY-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

In a new report from the University of Texas at Tyler, a trio of researchers asked nearly 1,000 undergraduates to keep track of their time. And to keep track of what they were doing when they were also doing something else.

“We basically found that multitasking is somewhat of a myth. People think that they are able to do it, but they really are not able to do it well," Kouider Mokhtari says.

Mokhtari co-authored with Julie Delello and Carla Reichard. He says one of the surprising findings of their study is that students know multitasking doesn’t work – but they do it anyway – and so, admittedly, do most all of us.

So what’s the real issue here? Obviously we can handle doing some number of tasks at once.

But Mokhtari says it’s about putting away distractions when we really need to focus on something.

“If you’re trying to read something and it’s pretty complicated that you really need all the brainpower to really understand it and if you’re trying to do a couple of things on the side – those other things are going to eventually affect that particular activity,” he says.

Mokhtari’s big suggestion for students – and anyone who is having trouble with distractions? Time management.

“For example, during a typical day, maybe they devote, say, two hours of the day just for reading, just completely devoted to that,” Mokhtari says. “Maybe another two hours devoted to something else instead of mixing and matching things.”

So stow away that cell phone while you’re studying for your final… and try, a little at least, to stop planning your vacation while you’re finishing that big report at work.

Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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