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The Myth of Multitasking

A recent article in Information Week asserted that Email is Making You Stupid. I found this particular quote very interesting:


As workers’ attention spans are whipsawed by interruptions, something insidious happens in the brain: Interruptions erode an area called effortful control and with it the ability to regulate attention. In other words, the more you check your messages, the more you feel the need to check them–an urge familiar to BlackBerry or iPhone users.


My question is this – does it erode permanently, or is it a learned behavior that can be forgotten? I have turned off the new mail alerts on my desktop and iPhone. Unfortunately there is still instant messenger, the phone and the dreaded drive-by (those people that just pop in your office). I seem to be less distracted at work without the new mail notification instantly grabbing my attention the second an “FYI” email pops in my inbox. I can now process those messages once an hour or so on my own schedule. But the aforementioned disruptions still vie for my attention and make me a highly distracted worker. Can technology solve this problem that technology created?


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