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Are You a Supertasker?


The research is in on multitasking. Constantly switching back and forth from one task to another puts strain on the brain. This additional strain then decreases our ability to pay attention and to focus. It also places a heavy burden on memory.


(Photo Credit: ryantron/Flickr)

It has been said that driving while talking on the phone is comparable to driving while intoxicated. The distraction impairs our ability to think and react while driving just as much as drinking.

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An article in Psychology Today discusses the difference between multitaskers and supertaskers. Before you get too excited about becoming a supertasker, be forewarned: current evidence suggests supertaskers are born, not made.

The existence of supertaskers came as a surprise to cognitive psychologist David Strayer of The University of Utah. While studying the ill-effects of multitasking on concentration, attention, and memory, he eventually found that about 2.5 percent of the people in his studies are able to juggle two or three tasks at once without making mistakes, slowing down, or forgetting something.

It seems the key is cognitive control. Supertaskers are able to drown out any and all distraction, and focus entirely on whatever needs their attention in the moment. Switching from moment to moment does not seem to cause them problems, the way it does for most people.

While we all can’t be supertaskers, perhaps we can learn lessons from these studies in multitasking and efficiency.

1. Better to focus on one thing at a time. Do that one thing well.

2. Avoid distractions while working. The radio or television take our attention away, even if for a brief moment. This reduces productivity.

3. Turn off the internet connection on your computer while working. If you know you can’t “just check” email or a web page, you won’t waste time.

4. Unless you are a very rare supertasker, consider making lists of tasks you must complete. Do one thing at a time, do it well, and move on to the next for greatest efficiency.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you know a supertasker? Do you think you might be one? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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