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Thread: multi tasking

  1. #1 multi tasking 
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    I have noticed (perhaps more so as I have got older or maybe just because it has become a topic in the media) that multitasking is quite difficult for me).

    I am a man and so maybe that is to be expected but I wonder if multitasking is a skill that can or should be developed .
    Are there any exercises deigned to achieve this?
    It seems unnatural .

    The only exercise I have worked out is to drum the fingers of the hand whilst simultaneously and smothly rotating the thumb in the horizontal plane.

    Could I expect mental benefits from a physical exercise of this nature?


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  3. #2  
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    Short video on the differences between younger and older people on multi-tasking.
    Multitasking.wmv - YouTube

    More extended article by the same cognitive scientist on the disadvantages of multi-tasking for learning generally.
    http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneduc...Willingham.pdf

    He's not a fan.


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    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  4. #3  
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    The conclusion is: there's no training for multi-tasking.
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  5. #4  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope skeptic's Avatar
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    There is also no advantage.
    Multi-tasking inhibits productivity. Various studies show that the greatest results are achieved with solid focus - concentrating on one task at a time.

    Draw up a list of what needs to be done, and organise the list according to urgency and importance. Put the most urgent and important tasks at the top. Work your way down the list, one at a time. Often you will find, by the time you get around to the less urgent and important tasks, that they are not actually necessary anyway.
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  6. #5  
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    thanks

    Ok but suppose I am engaged in a phyical activity(that doesn't require close mental attention) and my mind is engaged on a particular subject (which needed mental attention) .

    Wouldn't it be an advantage to me if I didn't have to stop what I was doing in order to concentrate on what I was thinking about (or at least delay the pause in my ongoing activity as long as posible) ?

    I would have thought that would increase productivity...

    Is the conclusion that no training is possible contained in that article by Daniel Willingham , msafwan?

    btw the video posted doesn't take into account the the benefit of having an extra task ongoing - only the detriment caused to the first (and supposdly primary) task.

    Crudely speaking if your weighted advantages then 80% + 84% is more than 95% +0 if I am being clear.
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  7. #6  
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    As for mixing in physical activity, I think there are a lot of misconceptions here. Take cooking. If you watch an experienced or professional cook it looks as though they're multi-tasking. Lots of things going on at once, stirring pots, checking ovens and all the rest of it.

    What they're really doing is the same as musicians and athletes. They've rehearsed and practised and reinforced all the necessary steps and activities so thoroughly that they don't pay any attention at all to things that might trip up novices. Footballers don't think about running, nor do singers think about breathing, basketballers don't think about catching the ball. What they have is automatic habits. The whole basis of skill and speed in most activities is making sure that you have to think as little as possible about the basics.

    Having established the skills, you're free to pay attention to the 'important' stuff. Not, how do you hold the racquet, but making your tennis shot land in the corner you're aiming for. You can only do that if your attention is not shifting to and fro on lesser tasks and activities.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
    "nature is like a game of Jenga; you never know which brick you pull out will cause the whole stack to collapse" Lucy Cooke
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  8. #7  
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    yes but in the circumstances you have outlined I would like to be able to ,as you say, pay no attention at all
    to the ongoing simple activity and yet I find that I need to stop what I am doing to concentrate on the thoughts that are going on in my brain.

    It doesn't make sense for me to stop what I am doing as this activity is also important and that is why I wonder whether improving my multitasking skills would allow me ,say, to carry on with my cogitation regarding general relativity at the same time as I am digging the garden (without stopping digging or carting etc. -where is the emoticon for "more in hope than expectation"?)

    I realise that to maximise my understanding of the sciences I should direct my efforts solely in that direction (for particular lengths of time) but do I have to enter zombie mode when I engage in physical activity?
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  9. #8  
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    geordief

    We are all different.

    Maybe your specific requirement is that you stop the physical activity to complete the mental?
    Personally, I find a repetitive physical activity helps me think. I get some of my best thinking done while walking, or driving. But we are all different.

    But to achieve your maximum, you must be able to focus on the task. How you achieve that focus may be something unique to yourself.
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  10. #9  
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    pfftt... you always NEED to stop doing anything to start thinking. The reason why a mundane thing such as bicycling doesn't take as much thinking as it should be is because you already cycled 1000 time before (at that same road & at that same bicycle) (it entirely became ingrained in your brain, became automatic). If you look at adult who first ride a bicycle (or someone who rarely ride a bicycle but suddenly decided to ride it), then they always (I repeat: ALWAYS!) become overwhelmed by a simple thing we always take for granted such as balancing and choosing path, the same applies with driving cars.

    If you do everything for first time of course you need to stop to think; your brain aren't superman. The brain is really really slow and is a potential fail. eg: try being startled: it took like ~a second to actually 'see' what surprised you (the brain usually expect what it sees before it sees it, but when something new just appear it just froze trying to take it in).

    This is normal limitation of the brain and is the reason why talking to telephone or arguing while driving can help you to get a car accident. (there are already many documentary that demonstrate brain failing. You can see it if you just can't accept it. eg: NatGeo's "test your brain" series)
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  11. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic View Post
    Multi-tasking inhibits productivity.
    It depends on the task. If you're a short-order chef, its crucial. When I was a help desk troubleshooter, I'd have to juggle issues depending on communication windows with the clients and technicians, task times, problem solving, and drudgery. I'd usually work on 3-4 tickets at once. As a student as well, I can't just focus on one class at a time until its at 100% and go to the next. I have to balance study time with homework and projects.
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