Multitasking: how to survive in the XXI century
Productivity / / December 23, 2019
Forget about the invisibility or the ability to fly. The only superpowers, we dream of today - to do several different things at once. However, unlike any other super-strength, ability to multitask often occurs as a basic requirement for employment.
Some of you probably can remember sitting at the computer, or tablet with multitouch, fasting status on Twitter and at the same time was eating steak with cold orange juice. Others read on Kindle, poking into the smartphone and looking at the television in the corner with two lines running subtitles. We do not hesitate to send email to a colleague with a proposal to have a coffee, because we are sure that he will read a letter in a few minutes.
Simply put, as well as running the modern world. multitasking - this is the same power as read or add numbers, so fundamental, that is perceived as a matter of course. Do one thing at a time - this is for losers. Recall how Lyndon Johnson (Lyndon Johnson) spoke of Gerald Ford (Gerald Ford): «Ford - a nice guy, but he can not both chew gum and walk."
The rise of multitasking is stimulated by the development of technology and social change. Husbands and wives no longer divided into breadwinners and housewives - now everyone has to be both. Employment and entrainment may be inseparable from each other. Your friends can reach you even if you're at work, sending you email at 10am. And your boss can call on a cell at 10 pm. You can do shopping sitting at your desk, and keep control of operational issues, standing in line at the supermarket.
It's a good change in many ways. How wonderful to be able to do the important stuff and not waste time. How delightful diversity in all its forms! No longer have to live in a monotone Taylorist world where it was necessary to fully concentrate on similar problems until soydosh crazy.
And yet, we begin to understand that the benefits of multi-tasking life is not so simple. We feel loaded with things that may need to do at any time. We feel that we can call at any time.
We are concerned about the terrible appetite of our children, who are doing everything right: scroll through homework, corresponding to WhatsApp, listening to music and watching "Game of Thrones."
According to recent research Pabilonia Sabrina (Sabrina Pabilonia) from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half the time, allotted to homework, the students listen to music or watching television - in other words, multitask mode. And this trend is gaining momentum. Maybe they do get to handle all incoming information? They think so, despite the fact that studies show the opposite.
Now you can watch the response to multitask - a kind of self-help campaign. A living example - a project on Kickstarter kraudfandingovy in December 2014. For $ 499 - more than the multifunctional laptop - can be purchased Hemingwrite, computer good keyboard, a small E-Ink-screen TV and an automatic sending text into cloud store. You can not send an email with Hemingwrite. With Hemingwrite can not watch YouTube, you can not read the news. You can only print. Hemingwrite campaign raised more than $ 3 million.
There are programs like Freedom and Self-Control, you can install them in your browser to disable it for a certain time. The Villa Stéphanie, hotel in Baden-Baden, offering an additional service in luxury rooms: a small silver the switch next to the bed, which can be activated blocker wireless networks, so as not to be tempted internet.
The line between opponents held. On the one hand, the modern culture of the workplace, which requires you to be willing to be interrupted at any time. On the other - a single-tasking adherents, who insist that multitasking - is misleading and that the main thing - able to focus the most important one. Who is right?
There is ample evidence to support the fact that we need to focus on one thing at a time. Referring to the study Streyera David (David Strayer), a psychologist from the University of Utah. In 2006 Streyer and his colleagues used high-precision driving simulator to compare the productivity of drivers who are rewritten on the phone while driving, and drivers with an excess of alcohol in the blood (by US law). Driving style, "talkative" The driver was not aggressive or risky, like drunk, but they were dangerous in another way. Drivers with phones are much slower to react to events outside of the car and did not notice the signs around. Streyera disappointing conclusion was that driving with the parallel use of a mobile phone is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
In this study, there was another important conclusion: it does not matter whether the driver is talking, holding the phone, or speakerphone. Problems due to talk at the wheel may not appear due to a shortage of hands. And because of the lack of intellectual resources.
However, this finding has not made much of an impression on public opinion and legislators. In the UK, for example, it is forbidden to use the phone by hand while driving and talking on the phone in hands-free mode - completely legally. We are glad to agree that we have only two hands, but refuse to acknowledge that we have only one brain.
In another study Streyer proved that we also wrongly assess their own ability to multi-task. Study participants, who argued that long and can productively multitask poorly coped with tests on the ability to multi-task. They systematically overestimate their ability to control emotions and worse. In other words, the desire to multitask - a clear indication that you probably should not do that.
We can not immediately understand what prevents us from multitasking. For the first time, I used Twitter, to comment on the social event of the TV coverage of government debate in 2010. The feeling of live communication I liked, I could view the arguments candidates and post answers to compose your 140-character profound sayings and watch as their rassharivat. I felt fully involved in what is happening. And only at the end of the debate, I realized to my surprise that I can not remember absolutely nothing of what was said Brown, Cameron and Clegg.
A study conducted by the University of California, confirms that my experience is not unique. Three psychologists Karin Foerd (Karin Foerde), Barbara Knowlton (Barbara Knowlton) and Russell Poldrek (Russell Poldrack) - showed the students a series of cards with symbols on them, and then asked to make a prediction, if they understood the pattern (System). Some of these predictions have been made in a multitasking environment, where students also had to listen to the recording with high and low tones and calculate the highest of them. You might think that to make a prediction and at the same time try to focus on the sounds - it is too much load. Not really. Students were sufficiently prepared and able to recognize patterns with sound or without tips them.
But here's the rub: when the researchers after the job asked more general questions about the patterns became clear the whole price multitasking behavior. Students struggling to answer questions about the forecasts, which they did in a multitasking environment. They coped with both tasks, but do not know anything that could be applied in other contexts.
This is a disappointing discovery. When we send email during boring meetingsWe do not do it carefully. According to the findings of psychologists, a sense of understanding may be an illusion, and only then you will find that in fact many do not remember or can not flexibly apply their knowledge. This means that because of the multitasking we become forgetful - another trait that makes us a little bit like drunks.
The first "mnogozadachniki"
In 1958, a young psychologist Bernice Eyduson (Bernice Eiduson) launched a long-term research project. As it turned out, so long-term that it has not lived up to its completion. Eyduson studied approach to forty scientists predominantly men. She periodically, every few years, they interviewed and conducted psychological tests. Some scientists career ended in failure, others have achieved great success. Four received the Nobel Prize, two more were considered as serious contenders for her. Several people were invited to join the National Academy of Sciences.
After the death of her colleagues published Eyduson analysis work Bernice. In particular, Robert Root-Bernstein (Robert Root-Bernstein), Maureen Bernstein (Maurine Bernstein) Garnier and Helen (Helen Garnier) wanted to determine what determines the long productive career scientist, find a recipe genius and long work.
In interviews and psychological tests, there was no secret. But looking at the early publication of these scientists in their first 100 scientific articles, the researchers found a pattern: the leading scientists constantly changing the direction of its activities.
In the first 100 works of the most productive scientists managed to cover five different research areas and changed one topic to the other about 43 times. They published, changed the subject, published again and again changed the subject. Since the study is time-consuming, sometimes threads partially overlap. So what's the long and highly productive career, the secret of a scientist? The multitasking.
Charles Darwin cope with different activities. His notes on the types of mutations, he began to lead the two decades before the publication of "The Origin of Species." "Biographical sketch of a child," he began to write immediately after the birth of his son William, and published only when William was 37 years old. At the same time Darwin nearly 20 years working on climbing and insectivorous plants. A book about earthworms, he published in 1881, shortly before his death. Darwin worked on it for 44 years. When psychologists Howard Gruber (Howard Gruber) and Sarah Davis (Sara Davis) studied Darwin's work methods and other well-known scientists, they concluded that such overlapping studies were common phenomenon.
Another group of psychologists led by Mihayem Csikszentmihalyi (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), polled nearly 100 exceptionally creative people, from jazz pianist Oscar Peterson (Oscar Peterson) and writer Stephen Jay Gould (Stephen Jay Gould) to the twice Nobel Prize winner, physicist John Bardeen (John Bardeen). Csikszentmihalyi known for developing ideas flow - blessed state to be so absorbed in their purpose, they do not notice the passage of time and leave all outside distraction. In addition, each of the respondents practiced Csikszentmihalyi work on multiple projects simultaneously.
Just internet addiction?
If the term "multi-tasking" can be applied to Darwin, and to the teenager with a habit to constantly check Instagram, you should consider a more precise definition of this phenomenon. There are at least four types of activities that we can understand, talking about multitasking.
1. congenital multitasking
For example, when you can both sing and play the piano. Congenital multitasking is possible, but at least one of the tasks to be performed automatically, without any hesitation.
2. Switching between tasks
Now let's talk about the situation when you make a presentation to your boss at the same time respond to his calls and one eye looked at emailIf all of a sudden he wants to get you there. It can not be called multitasking in the same sense. Here's more like the term "rapid switching between tasks," because your attention is divided between a presentation and a telephone belonging. Much of what we call multitasking is actually rapid switching between tasks.
3. distracted attention
Switching between tasks is often confused with the third activity - the secret passion scrolling endless belt gossip about the stars and updates on social networks in between times. There is a big difference between a person who stood in the middle of the article, to make a few notes on his future project, and then return back to her, and a man who has read half the article, and then went to view photos of girls in bikini. "What we call multitasking is often banal Internet addiction- says psychologist Shelley Carson (Shelley Carson), author of "Your creative brain" of the book. - This is the obsessive action and not a manifestation of multi-tasking. "
4. Manage multiple projects
The last kind of multitasking - when you need not do the trick, but just do a lot of things. You need to drive away the car in service. Teeth ache. Husband today can not pick up the kids from school. Need to prepare for an important meeting next week, and even pay taxes. If you want to do a lot of things, it does not mean you have to do them all at once. It's just life.
The fight for attention
All four steps: innate multitasking, switching between tasks, attention and management of multiple projects - hung one labeled "multi-tasking". This does not happen because of the usual linguistic confusion, they are more similar in one respect. In particular, highly productive practice to maintain multiple disparate projects simultaneously can lead to very unproductive habit quickly switch between tasks.
To understand why, consider a story that happened in the restaurant near by the University of Berlin in 1920 - its like to tell psychologists. When a large group of academics raided the restaurant, the waiter came to take the order, and each time quietly nodded when they added a new dish or drink in general difficult order. He did not write anything, but when he returned with the food, all made sure that his memory is perfect. Leaving, academics are still discussing his extraordinary skill. But one of them came back for some forgotten thing, and the waiter did not remember. As it turned out, the waiter suddenly become so distracted? "It's very simple - he replied. - When the order is paid, I remember him. "
One of the members of the Berlin school was a young experimental psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik. In one experiment, it showed that people better remember uncompleted tasks. This phenomenon is called "Zeigarnik effect": When we interrupt the action, not brought to an end, we can not throw it out of my head. Our subconscious stores a reminder that the task requires attention.
Zeigarnik effect can explain the relationship between the presence of many duties and abuse of fast switching between tasks. We run from task to task, because we can not forget about all those things that have not yet done so. We run from task to task, because they are trying to drown out your inner voice haunting.
Now we are talking a lot about the Protection of attention, single-tasking. But in the past a lot of talk in defense of calligraphy or asserted that everyone needs a butler. The world is moving forward. There is something attractive in Hemingwrite room and no internet in the hotel but there is something inappropriate.
It is not true that only Facebook prevents you achieve literary fame. And in most offices Hemingwrite not the most appropriate tool to achieve promotion. You do not Ernest Hemingway, and you can not just ignore incoming from colleagues.
Single-tasking can survive only if go on compromises with modern multi-tasking world.
Loops and Lists
The word "multitasking" was not used in relation to people until the 1990s, for half a century it was intended solely to describe computers. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first time the term "multitasking" appeared in print in the journal Datamation in 1966 when describing a computer capable of performing a number of different operations at the same time.
Just like people, computers typically create the illusion of multitasking, but is really just a very fast switching between tasks. Only computers are switched rapidly, they do not need 20 minutes to get back in action after the break.
In addition, the computer will not have to worry about what has not been done. Until all passes and the text is sent to the printer, it will not feel any guilt for what podvisli mouse on the last 16 milliseconds. Time and will reach up to the mouse. Be a computer - then never collide with effect Zeigarnik.
How can we maintain a sense that everything is under control, if the experience ongoing feelings of guilt for not having done?
Every time you speak to someone, "I'll come back to this" - you start the cycle in his brain. And this cycle will spin it as long as you do not put in the replacement system you can trust.
David Allen (David Allen)
Modern life encourages us to open more and more cycles. We are not necessarily a lot of work, but there are many cases of workers, we must be willing to do at any time. Tasks inevitably spill over into the other one. Whatever we do, we can not help but feel that we should do something else. And it takes a lot of mental effort.
Principle set out in Getting Things DoneIs simple: close open loops. With details of more complicated, but the principle exhaustive. After each case, which you have made for yourself or someone else, write down what you plan to do next. See a list of their following often enough - it will give confidence that you do not lose sight of.
In the method of Allen's many followers. Practice shows that many people find it extremely helpful, and I'm including (details below). Yet only recently psychologists E. J.. Masikampo (E J Masicampo) and Roy Baumeister (Roy Baumeister) have found an explanation for why people become easier thanks to David Allen. In fact, it is not necessary to complete the task to get rid of Zeigarnik effect. This will help a specific plan. Write down these steps and you will notice that annoying inner voice trails off. You carry their concerns on a piece of paper.
The boundaries of creativity
Most likely, it is a wise decision - to leave quickly switch between tasks computers. But even vehement throwing between Facebook, email and documents can give certain advantages.
Psychologist Shelley Carson (Shelley Carson) and its student Justin Moore (Justin Moore) recently conducted an experiment. They tested the students' ability to quickly switch between tasks. Each subject was given two tasks: to solve anagrams and read articles from scientific journals. Targets need to be performed on the computer. Half of the subjects perform tasks sequentially: first, they solved anagrams, and then read the article. The other half of the experimental group on the screen changed jobs every two and a half minutes - with anagrams article and vice versa, and so several times.
Not surprisingly, due to the constant task switching subjects in the second group to think slowly. They decided anagrams less and less focused in the content read, because to switch attention from one to another every 150 seconds.
However, when interpreting the results revealed the benefits of such multi-tasking. Subjects who performed the task switching, were more creative. To be more precise, their test scores differed innovative thinking, especially with regard to the open-ended responses. They are, for example, could be asked to come up with as many ways to use a rolling pin or list the consequences of what would happen to the world, whether in people not two hands, but three. Forced "mnogozadachniki" gave more varied answers, besides their thoughts were original.
"It seems that switching between tasks launches creative people," - said Carson, an associate professor at Harvard. The results of its collaboration with Moore has not yet been published, but one could argue that it is unlikely such tasks are suitable for the measurement of creativity. Carson says that in laboratory studies found the relationship of divergent thinking and creative activities in the broadest sense, whether it's writing a novel, a professional production of the stage show or the creation of picturesque canvas. Those who are convinced that a great work can be done only by a superhuman concentration should reflect on this discovery.
Carson and her colleagues found a correlation between the significant achievements in the creative sector and the manifestation of the psychological phenomena, such as low capacity of the latent inhibition. Latent inhibition - a filter, which is in all mammals, allowing unknowingly disconnect from unimportant stimuli. It would be intolerable to hear every conversation in the office air conditioner hum, while noting every person who passes by the box office. Latent inhibition rescues us from this. This subconscious filter allows us to walk around the world, not in response to any external stimuli.
Yet people whose filters are slightly more permeable, more often have abilities to be creative. Think about it, "odnozadachniki": as long as you are trying too hard to focus on one thing, people who are not opposed to the noise of the world now carry their manuscript to the publisher.
"You get more information in their cognitive space, moreover it can be both conscious and unconscious nature", - says Carson. Two other psychologists, White Holly (Holly White) and Priti Shah (Priti Shah), found a similar pattern in the behavior of people suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It would be wrong to romanticize severe disorders such as ADHD. All studies were conducted among university students, that is, people who have already demonstrated their ability to perceive information. Although the conditions of the experiment White and Shah were not trivial: the participants had to have a clinical diagnosis of ADHD. This means that attention deficit is so worried about the students that they had to seek professional help.
This is a surprising discovery: switching between tasks makes us more creative. More surprising to know that in our time, when we all live under the threat of constant distractions, people who are prone to distraction, can thrive creatively.
Maybe we should not be so surprised. "By switching between tasks, you can lubricate the rails on which moves the idea," - says John Kounios (John Kounios), professor of psychology at Drexel University.
Kounios, co-author of Eureka Factor, suggests that there are at least two psychological mechanisms that could potentially start work when switching between tasks. One of them is the new challenge helps us forget the bad ideas. When the creative problem solving is easier to get stuck, because we think about the wrong decisionBut at the same time just can not stop thinking about him. When you do something new, fundamentally different, it is included forgetting reaction that allows us to escape and find the right solution.
The second mechanism - a flexible assimilation. When a new challenge motivates us to think about the decision of the old. A well-known example - Archimedes and his "Eureka!".
As the story goes, the task of Archimedes was to determine whether the Crown is really made of pure gold (without impurities), without destroying the piece of jewelry. The decision turned out to be this: to see whether the golden crown displace the same amount of water from the vessel, and that the gold bar of the same weight. This solution came to mind Archimedes, when he took a bath and thought about the water level changes. Take a bath and seek a solution to the problem - whether it is multi-tasking?
6 ways to be a multitasking genius
1. be careful
"The ideal situation for multitasking - when I can focus at the right time", - says psychologist Shelley Carson. Tom Chatfield (Tom Chatfield), author of the book Live This Book, advises make two lists - one for the work that is best done through the Internet, and the other - for the work that is best done offline. Connecting and disconnecting from the Internet must be a conscious action.
The main idea of Get Things Done by David Allen - indefinite translate every thought and feeling of guilt in a specific action. Therefore regularly burn everything and constantly through them. The goal - to not worry about the things that you do, and those that you have decided not to do right now, but at the same time, rest assured that nothing will not disappear.
3. Tame your smartphone
Smartphone - great, but annoying assistant. Disable unnecessary warning: most people do not need to know about new tweets or incoming mails. Configure the storage system in your email. For example, when it is more convenient to respond to a message from the keyboard (to write 50 words or more), you You move the message to a special folder where it is stored for as long as you do not get to computer.
4. Focus on short tasks
Pomodoro - a technique proposed by Francesco Cirillo (Francesco Chirillo) - is to break up large the problem for a few sets of 25 minutes (called tomato), between which is arranged a small break. Productivity guru Merlin Mann (Merlin Mann) advises method of electronic dash - to view the list of e-mail or urgent cases within a few minutes every hour. These techniques help you to focus and at the same time allow you to switch between projects several times a day.
5. Prokrastiniruyte to win
If you are at the same time you take a few interesting projects that can put one aside and do something else. That's what worked for Charles Darwin. Change is as good as the rest, and, as explained by psychologist John Kounios, like switching between tasks contributes to the emergence of new ideas.
6. Work on different directions
"Creative ideas come to people who work in different areas, or are several different projects", - he says author and psychologist Keith Sawyer (Keith Sawyer). By the way, Sawyer is also a jazz pianist, a former management consultant, and game designer at Atari. Good ideas often come at a time when your mind finds unexpected connections between different areas.
Task List Tim Harford
System by David Allen Getting Things Done, or GTD, has become almost a religion among fans productivity. Her heart - a list of future cases. It is more effective than the usual list, because it is a comprehensive, specific, and recalls what you need to be reminded. And I want to share how to work with this system.
Record everything. I've been using Google Calendar to schedule appointments and electronic task list Remember The Milk, as well as the special list of tasks for the day on paper. Details do not matter. The principle is to not to keep all things in my head.
The list should be as complete as possible. In my list at the moment 151 para. (No, I did not remember this number, I have counted.)
Update list. The system works and relieves anxiety, if you are sure that the calendar and task list to remind you of what you need. I spend 20 minutes a week browsing the list, note the deadlines, to make sure that the list is not missing any important matters. Revision of the list is important. The more you trust it, the more you use it. The use most often, the more trust.
List with additional context is as good as the theme list. Of course, it is more convenient to maintain a list on a particular theme or project, such as a list of cases related to the repair of the room for guests, or a list of next year's plans. The works that have to do before leaving; things to buy in the store; ideas that you need to talk to the head at a meeting.
Specifically, the action is described as follows. If you simply write vague reminders, to-do list will continue to be of concern. Before writing poorly defined task, think 15 seconds about what it is.