Multitasking - Magic or Mayhem?
By Dorte Bladt
For mothers, multitasking is a bit of a survival instinct. How else are
we going to fit it all in? So, while we are driving the kids to soccer -
remembering to pick up the pet supplies on the way, we are on the hands free phone organising ballet pickup and writing a mental list for the grocery store as well as finishing the war happening on the back seat. Sound familiar?
Interestingly, while we think we are effective and that we get more done when we do several things at the same time, the truth about multitasking is, that not only do we frequently drop a ball and mess something up completely; we actually get a lot less done in the available time.
Research shows that multitasking means that a task takes 50% longer and with 50% more mistakes than concentrating on one thing at a time.
Unfortunately, our children are picking up our bad habits causing lifelong repercussions: They are habitually doing their homework while chatting to friends on Facebook, listening to music and playing games online, and as a result take longer and learn less.
John Medina in the book "Brain Rules" explains how the brain can only focus on one thing at a time, and how our effectiveness slows when we shift focus from one task to another.
The brain is wired sequentially; we are actually only capable of focusing on one thing at a time. When that one thing is done we can shift to the next, very much like having different windows open on a computer.
When the brain has to shift focus, this has to happen:
- The brain has to send certain messages to tell the part of the brain working at that particular moment, to stop doing what it is doing (e.g. the English essay)
- It has to send messages to another part of the brain to get that part to work (e.g. "What are my mates up to tonight?")
- When that's all sorted out & we want to re-focus our attention back where we were
- The brain has to send messages to tell the 'mate' part of the brain to stop
- New messages are sent back to the 'English Essay' part to get it to refocus
This is incredibly time consuming: It actually takes 7/10ths of a second to switch between tasks, and although that does not seem like a long time, it all adds up.
If we want to be better and faster learners, we have to stop multitasking, and - just like our mothers said - focus on one job at a time.
So what can we do to help our children study more effectively?
Try the following ideas:
- First of all, remember it is their homework. Let your child be responsible for the time, effort, completion & rewards/consequences. It doesn't mean parents can't help, especially younger children, however, we had our chance years ago.
- Be clear on what you want your child to achieve in a study session. Bigger assignments are better broken into smaller more manageable tasks, which are easier to start & complete in one concentrated session.
- Establish a good study routine: set up a calm, clear, light learning space with as little distractions as possible & set time aside daily/weekly for using this space.
- Switch off other electronic devices for the specified study period: music, internet, games, phones, iPad or laptop.
- Make a specific time frame for studying: depending on the age of your child, 10 minutes of concentrated study time may be is enough.
- Have regular breaks - not breaks to do more of the same like playing on the computer - do something different: move, stretch, walk, drink some water, eat an apple & some nuts, have a conversation.
- For overall improvement in brain function: exercise regularly, eat nutritious food & get enough restful sleep.
- Lastly, celebrate that good feeling of having completed the set tasks. Well done, what a star student!
About Dorte Bladt
Dorte specialises in paediatric spinal and nervous system health. She checks your spine to assess if the bones, muscles or ligaments are working properly and will gently, safely and naturally correct it to allow the body and the nervous system to function better. Dorte also provides advice on which exercises would be beneficial as well as which position to sleep, stand and sit in for the best possible posture.
Doctor of Chiropractic
Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown
2 Lincoln St, Charlestown NSW 2290
P: 02 4942 4842