The Effect of Multitasking on the Brain

My good friend Chris Miller shared this fascinating article from the New York Times. As a self professed infovore (why else would I blog and podcast so relentlessly?), I’ve followed some of the research threads tied together in this article. They span from findings on the hard wired limits of multi-tasking to knock on effects like email apnea as coined and discussed by Linda Stone. This piece has an excellent survey of the latest research on how the internet and other new information channels are affecting our ability to process information and to focus. The news that multitasking can have sustained impacts after we’ve stopped is news but hardly surprising as part of the larger picture.

Following Thomas Campbell’s personal story of these effects on his life really brings it home way more than even the equally fascinating, detailed account of how some of the research was conducted. It moves the ideas from the drily theoretical into the movingly personal. I admit to not always being as mindful of my info consumption habits as I should be. This serves is a strong reminder, not just to unplug but also to be careful about how information is pursued and consumed when plugged in.

I took the interactive focus test and was pleased to peg the score for both classes of distractions. I do try consciously to be more of a serial single tasker and clearly my efforts there are paying off. I scan my feeds in dedicated bursts throughout the day rather than continuously grazing. I consolidate all of my reading to a single time each day which is also when I digest that material to fuel my own sharing and writing. Based on my apparent success, I think I should perhaps distill my thoughts and experiences into an essay or monologue.

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