I hear it (and see it) all the time – executives who are supposed to be studying, discussing or working together tuning in and out as they engage in the so-called blackberry prayer, or trying to simultaneously deal with email while supposedly on a conference call. My protests, notwithstanding, they will often argue that such multi-tasking allows them to accomplish more in less time.
Turns out that recent research supports the idea that people do better when they focus on what they’re doing, rather than spreading their attention over multiple tasks. Researchers at Vanderbilt University posit that the brain experiences a bottleneck of sorts when trying to accomplish more than one objective at a time. See here for links to the original research.
We’ve been making the argument for a long time that you’re better off focusing on one thing at a time and avoiding distractions—interesting to know that research is starting to suggest why.