I've been reading a lot about the brain and multitasking. Here is a sample of what I've found:
Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth - Brain Rules, by Dr. John Medina
The brain can't effectively handle more than two complex, related activities at once. - Science Magazine, April 2010
cognitive performance declines when people try to pay attention to many media channels at once... and people who chronically multitask believe they're good at it. - Science Magazine, August, 2009
The brain appears to have a finite amount of space for tasks requiring attention... People performing two demanding tasks simultaneously do neither one as well as they do each one alone. - NYTimes, July 2001
We have trouble switching between tasks and cannot seem to actually do more than one thing at a time. - Scientific American, April 2010
It got me thinking, maybe I should stop trying to multitask and start singletasking instead (or as the research states, focusing on no more than two tasks at a time). At least give it a try and see if I feel more productive, efficient, focused, etc. So, that's what I'm going to do. It occurs to me that singletasking is mostly about time-management so I'll start by ensuring that my calendar (gCal) and to do list (Remember the Milk) is always up to date. I'll post periodically to let you know how I'm doing and what systems I've come up with... assuming I get one.
As an educator, learner and parent, I think that understanding how the brain multitasks (or doesn't multitask) has some serious implications. I mean, this research informs common sense that indictates if you are working on a paper, homework, math problems, etc, you might not be able to be Facebooking, texting, listening to the ipod, and talking with your friend...