Confession: sometimes I check my phone when my wife is talking to me.
This makes her mad, for the obvious reason that it’s rude as hell, and it sends a clear signal I’m not really listening. (I’m not proud of this.)
It’s even worse when she discovers that the “work e-mail” I’m checking is actually me checking five new likes for my latest #corgi picture on Instagram.
Fact: when I do more than one thing at one time, neither thing gets more than 50% of my intelligence. And, numerically speaking, when I divide my IQ by 50%, it puts me in the “special needs” category.
This is a real problem, with real implications for community, productivity and creativity. Multi-tasking shreds your focus. And because digital, connected devices make it ridiculously easy to multi-task, more and more of us are experiencing extended periods of scatter-brainedness.
After all, it’s so easy to check email, Facebook, news headlines, Gawker, The Onion, you name it. Much easier than, you know, focusing on one thing and getting it done.
How dumb does multi-tasking make us?
A new info-graphic from onlinecollege.org lays it out for us. A few highlights:
- Multitasking lowers your IQ by 10 points. The equivalent of missing a night of sleep. Twice the dumbing-down power of marijuana. (I quit smoking dope in 1986 because I could feel it make me stupid; an outcome I achieved often enough without outside help. So, knowing what I know now, why would I multi-task?)
- Multitasking costs you 2.1 hours of productivity a day. 10.5 hours per work week. 546 hours per year.
- Multitasking makes it harder to learn. Students who do homework while IMing (or watching TV) are more likely to report academic impairment.
- Multitasking in a car is as bad as being hammered. If you’re on the phone in the car — and we aren’t even talking about texting, we’re talking about talking — you drive like someone with a BAC of .08. That’s legally drunk.
It’s hard to voluntarily put the devices away, and focus on focus. But I’m become aware of how much time and focus I waste by doing too many things at once.
It’s bad enough when they’re “important” things. It’s worse when they’re habitual time-wasters — like when we pathologically check email for new messages, news sites for news, social sites for shout-outs.
It’s time to cut back. For all of us.
Just because we can multi-task, doesn’t mean we should.