Multitasking often gets a bad rap these days, and attempts to improve the focus on our work and education usually mean removing all tablets and smartphones from the room. However at an interesting seminar recently put on by the Hechinger Institute, we discovered some new information about focus and tech that upended several articles we've read lately.
Dr Larry Rosen from California State University had some interesting information to share with us at a recent seminar put on by the Hechinger Institute that put our multitasking tech loving hearts at ease.
According to Dr Rosen's research, multitasking is an important part of life and without it we adults and kids grow bored. The brain works best when it has frequent breaks and the best breaks serve to reset the brain. Breaks that Dr Rosen suggests include 15 minute walks, viewing a video about nature, talking live to a friend (not via chat or text), and viewing art that you find beautiful.
In addition to his support for multitasking, the other piece of his presentation that captured our interest was his support for tech breaks. For kids, Dr Rosen suggests 1 minute tech breaks for 15 minutes of class time. These breaks are also beneficial for working adults. What these short tech breaks do is they allow us to focus better on our work knowing that there is a time set aside for checking Facebook or viewing emails and texts. Without the tech breaks the temptation to check our devices constantly is very strong and it becomes a distraction that is perpetually looming in the back of our minds.
His research strongly supports the use of tech breaks and he believes that parents need to modify their expectations of how kids do homework and we should modify the way we think about being productive. Being productive as a student or a working adult does not mean 1 hour of working on a single task and it is when we make this our goal that we are not doing our best work. Our brains are not focused when we keep wondering if that friend ever responded to that message we sent and the pull to check is very strong. Switching quickly back and forth from Twitter to Excel is also not productive and the good doctor admonishes us to keep all things tech distracting compartmentalized.
Finding the right amount of time for focused work and tech breaks is essential for creating healthy work habits regardless of your age, and it's a very good thing to teach kids who are just starting to feel the pull of social networks and texting to master. The important thing to remember when building tech breaks into your schedule is they should be frequent, but not too frequent and that they need to be short, otherwise they won't serve to refresh and maintain focus but will pull focus all on their own. Next time you feel compelled to check Facebook, put yourself on a text break schedule and remind yourself that the time to check it will be soon, but it's just not that time right now.
Do you currently use frequent short tech breaks during your work day?
(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho)