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No Email! March 25, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in computers, physics life.

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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