I read a fascinating blog post today by Kathy Sierra of Creating Passionate Users on multitasking. The main point being that multitasking is a misnomer. It doesn’t make you more efficient… it actually slows you down. I agree with Kathy on the basic principle. I find myself having to deal with multiple tasks all the time. Kathy explains..
Our brains can’t do even two independent things that require conscious thought, especially if those two things involve different goals. But that’s OK, you might think, since multi-threaded systems on a single-processor aren’t technically doing two things at the same time.. they’re simply switching back and forth so quickly that they just appear to be processing simultaneously. But that’s the problem… the brain isn’t a computer, and in many cases the brain works much more slowly than a modern processor.
I find that when I can concentrate on one task at a time that I’m much less stressed and much more focused. The quality of my work is better and I usually am able to fully complete the task. The key thing is trying to use the same part of the brain at the same time. But that’s not to say that all multi-tasking is bad.
I’ve discovered a multitasking trick that has revolutionized my learning ability and helps me be more efficient when doing mundane tasks. This trick is so amazing that I have a hard time believing that it works. I realized it quite by accident over the last few months.
I started noticing that I could concentrate on educational audio books better when I was listening while walking, running, or driving in my car. If I just sat in a chair and listened I would have a much harder time concentrating and soon found myself fidgeting or falling asleep.
This has had amazing ramifications for me. I’ve discovered that I’m a Kinesthetic (Hands On) learner and that I learn best when I’m doing something with my hands or when I’m up and walking about. In school I could learn things so much better if I could do them hands on. This ability to do two things at once has changed my life. The key here is doing two things that use different parts of the brain.
It used to be that if I wanted to learn something, I would read a book. With my busy schedule trying to find the time to read on a consistent basis has been difficult to say the least. I have many books that were started with great intentions but have not been finished. I find myself trying to read in the evenings when I’m tired and it usually ends up with sleep overtaking the reading process.
With Audio books on my iPod I can listen while driving or exercising. I have listened to over 30 Audio Books in the last year and I can honestly say that I’ve finished all but one (and that one had such bad narration I don’t think many people could get through it). Some of the better ones I have listened to multiple times. My comprehension of the material is much better than when I try to sit and read. If the material is fact intensive, I find it helpful to pick up the written book for reference and outline the material by hand.
If you are a kinesthetic or auditory learner I highly recommend that you give audio books a try. Load one up on a iPod or other MP3 player and take a walk or a short drive. I think like me you’ll find a whole new world of learning at your fingertips. The 30 audio books that I listened to had an average length of four hours. With standard written books this 120 hours of reading would take three weeks of 8 hour days to accomplish.
I listened to all 30 of these books while sitting in traffic, driving to work, or out on my daily walks. For most people this is totally unproductive time. For me I’ve discovered that my car and my walks have became a classroom!
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Question: What multitasking tricks have you learned?