The Art of Multi-tasking

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By Anna Cocks

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 5 of VARSITY News.


As we approach the end of this incredibly long semester, the desire to look back and think about the hurdles we’ve jumped over may arise. You may reminisce and think on the strategies you used to conquer this semester.

We all have different ways of studying and taking notes. Some of us may even place more importance on attending lectures – bunkers, you know who you are. But a commonality and trend I’ve noticed is that most students predominantly spend most of their time on their phones during lectures. We are all multi-taskers.

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of multi-tasking.


The pros:

I know many will agree that there’s nothing wrong with multi-tasking. We are doing two things at once; saving time and conquering the world as we listen to lectures while organise weekend plans (or doing online shopping).
One can leave a lecture with a sense of peace and calm, having ticked things off the long to-do lists. We all understand life is busy and racing at a pace that’s indescribable, and there’s a pressure to keep up for fear of being left behind.

But what if this multitasking lifestyle is actually causing more work for us later?


The Cons:

Extensive research has been done on media multi-tasking in learning environments and almost all point to the inability of humans to fully do two tasks at once. One’s full attention cannot be divided by two tasks.

In an experiment conducted on students doing a Communications course at a university in the States, a class of 44 students were divided by those allowed/encouraged to use laptops in class and those charged with only listening to the lecturer. The experiment was conducted over an entire semester. The results were that those with laptops suffered academically with little memory of lecture content.
The study further showed that no matter what was being ‘browsed’ on laptops during class, the content did not lead to higher marks purely due to the time and attention taken away from the lecture.

Multi-tasking is a distraction. It leads to mind wandering, thus being less effective for learning purposes. Some research even goes as far as to suggestion that multi-tasking can lead to an unawareness of reality and real life experiences.



To multi-task or not…that is the question

Like I said we are all different. And life is all about choices. If you decide that you can afford to half-listen to a lecture while you do other work, or organise your life, then that’s your choice. If you feel that life is way too hectic and you don’t have time to watch lecture videos later (even on speed 150%) then I suggest do one thing at a time and focus on the task at hand. #unitask.


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