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No Email! March 25, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, physics life.
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The NYTimes has an article on our ability to do multiple things at once.

The researchers said that they did not see a delay if the participants were given the tasks one at a time. But the researchers found that response to the second task was delayed by up to a second when the study participants were given the two tasks at about the same time.

No big deal unless you are driving (or typing a SMS on a bike!).

Further, there is an extra cost to an interruption:

In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.

That is one I’m familiar with! I wonder if there is a similar cost to interrupting work to write a blog post?

They also have an interesting discussion on the number of long term (different) projects that a person can take on efficiently. This is something directly relevant to this field. We all juggle multiple balls at once. Indeed, to get to be a professor in this field you have to be running or an important part of several major projects. The research shows what we all know (but don’t always pay attention to): you can’t tackle too many at once!

They also recommend listening to relaxing quiet music to help with concentration. So much for Moby. I know I’ve got some Enya around here somewhere…

So, I’m keeping the email off!

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