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Why Studies About Multitasking Are Missing The Point

Multitasking has gotten bad publicity recently. I personally don’t think I multitask – I task switch. Some people can task switch rapidly. Others prefer to focus on one element at a time. However, this article – why studies about multitasking Are missing the point – takes a different stance. The author states: “If you judge a juggler by how many times the balls hit the floor and contrast that with someone throwing and catching one ball at a time, the juggler will always lose. But the juggler is doing something different”. This is a valid point, but it also misses the differences in the type of activities we engage in. When I’m involved in “flow” activities, I jump from my RSS reader, to my blog, to delicious, to a skype chat, to Tweetdeck, to an online news site, etc. But…when I want to create something (a paper, design a course, create a podcast), I need a different approach. If I continue to utilize a flow approach, I will likely not apply the depth of thinking needed to complete the project well. Context is king. Approaches to learning and interacting are rooted in differing contexts.


  1. Raj Boora wrote:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve been seeing those studies as well and I’ve been meaning to put up a response as well, but the juggler analogy is right on the money. Some might think that the juggler is only doing one thing, but in reality in order to do anything useful as a juggler, you have to do more than keep the balls in the air. You have to entertain your audience at the same time so you can’t really be thinking about the balls that are moving in and out of your hands.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  2. Jared Stein wrote:

    So the take-away q. might be, how do we encourage folks to juggle well?

    Still, I think the “multitasking” phrase is misleading and potentially damaging; if it’s true we don’t really multitask, why perpetuate the myth?

    Thursday, September 17, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink