Productivity & Execution

How Multitasking Is Literally Lowering Your IQ

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When it comes to computers and electronic devices, effective multitasking is a must. The more memory a device has the better it can multitask and the more effective it can be for you. While our brains may consistently be compared to computers, and held up as an example of the most powerful computer in existence, multitasking is where the line is drawn. No matter how good modern computers may be at multitasking, new research shows it may as well be the equivalent of a computer virus for our minds.

multitaskingTo better understand what this means, we first need to look back at how we arrived where we are.

Background

Whatever you may think of modern technology, one thing is certain: it has led to a faster-paced lifestyle. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of communications.

In past decades, communication was very much a one-on-one pursuit. Communication was done in person, through the mail or over the telephone. No matter which of those means you chose, however, each of them had one thing in common: generally speaking, they involved one individual talking with another individual.

Fast forward to the present and individual, one-on-one communication is almost a thing of the past. We’re now inundated with emails, text messages, iMessages, chats, video conferences and the like. Even when one-on-one communication still occurs, it’s often interrupted, disjointed and hurried—all thanks to the multitasking environment that modern technology has helped create.

Because of these trends, Stanford University set out to study multitaskers and see if they really were as productive as they thought they were.

In each variation of the study, multitaskers consistently underperformed compared with individuals who stayed focused on a single task.

“We kept looking for what they’re better at, and we didn’t find it,” said Ophir, the study’s lead author and a researcher in Stanford’s Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab.

As bad as that sounds, it gets even worse.

Current Research

The University of London recently conducted a study on the effects of multitasking. Their results? That multitasking, especially with electronic media, more negatively affects a person’s IQ than losing a night of sleep or smoking marijuana.

How much does it affect the average IQ, exactly? As much as a full 15 points. To put that in perspective, it would cause a grown man’s IQ to be roughly equivalent to that of an 8 year-old’s.

Writing for Forbes.com, Travis Bradberry puts an even sharper point on it: “So the next time you’re writing your boss an email during a meeting, remember that your cognitive capacity is being diminished to the point that you might as well let an 8-year-old write it for you.”

The Solution

If multitasking is so bad, what can you do to stay more focused? The key is to retrain your mind to focus on one task at a time.

Vanessa Loder, also writing for Forbes, outlines an excellent way to start the process:

  • Allocate 75 uninterrupted minutes
  • Spend 20 minutes on your most important task, without checking email, texts or being disturbed
  • After 20 minutes, take a two minute break
  • Repeat
  • At the end of the 75 minute section, take a longer 10-15 minute break

In today’s environment, there’s no way to completely eliminate multitasking. However, understanding the risks, managing them and reducing multitasking any degree possible can go a long way toward minimizing the effects on your IQ.

About the Author: Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx strives to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to reach the highest levels of profitability: Journyx – project, time and expense tracking software – and Journyx PX – resource management software that provides work and financial forecasting for a complete picture of project and budget status, employee time and availability. Connect with Curt on Google+.


Category: Productivity & Execution

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Curt Finch About the Author: Curt Finch

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx. Journyx strives to be relentlessly creative and to build tools that help you spend your time on things that matter. After all, time is all we have. Founded in 1996, Journyx offers customers two solutions to …

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