Why it’s stupid to multitask, even on the weekend! (How I multitasked at Hearthstone & Fallout Shelter and made a mess of both!)

Finally, it’s the weekend!

And I decide to spend Friday night playing video games. The problem was I couldn’t decide which to play first, Hearthstone or Fallout Shelter. So i decided, YOLO, I’ll Play Hearthstone on my Mac and Fallout Shelter on my phone at the same time! I felt really productive for about 5 minutes. But really soon mental fatigue set in, switching from game to game really taxed my mind, and to be honest I don’t really know what I was doing half the time. By the end of the night I had dropped 5 ranks in Hearthstone, and had most of my dwellers killed in Fallout Shelter. If you’re not familiar with the games, thats similar to spending 4 hours of time and energy but getting a negative effect for my efforts undoing 8 hours of work.

Fallout Shelter - dead citizens everywhere! This is why it's stupid to multitask.

So 4 hours of multitasking  at games cost me a total of 12 hours of productivity. A Terrible Disaster! Now think of the times we multi task while driving, or on a date, or at work or school, it’s amazing we get anything done. My wasted evening inspired me to look at some of the research on multitasking on why it’s foolish to do so.

5 Reasons it’s stupid to Multitask.

  1. Multitasking gives you a false sense of productivity. Yes you managed to get to the office on time while making that phone call. But do you remember the contents of the phone call or where you parked the car? Or you’ve put in the hours at school or at a job, but did you really learn the material? Did you really produce something of value?

    A 2009 Stanford research demonstrated that heavy multitaskers are actually those most prone to distraction and least adept at quickly changing between tasks. Worse yet positive feelings  and satisfies a worker’s or students emotional need reinforcing the behavior multitasking, creating a positive feedback loop while failing to meet cognitive needs like studying effectively or getting work done. If I did not perform so badly, I might have prided myself in being very productive by playing 2 games instead of one last night.

  2. Multitasking makes you jaded and bored. Every pro-athlete or top performer talks about achieving flow or being in the zone. Multitasking to put it simply, makes you bored and jaded by breaking flow and immersion

     A recent Time Inc. study found that Digital Natives transfer their attention from one form of media to another about once every minute (27 times per hour). As a result of all this mental ping-ponging from one platform to the next, they become less absorbed in media and less emotionally invested in what they’re watching or reading. In my games I face a threat or missed an opportunity but in my jadedness I was slow to respond appropriately.

  3. The effect of multitasking on productivity is similar to losing a night’s sleep. (it makes your IQ drop) It causes poorer performance. A 2005 study conducted for Hewlett-Packard by the King’s College London Institute of Psychiatry found that regular work interruptions to read or respond to new emails cut the average person’s IQ by about 10 points. That’s almost lik losing a full night’s sleep and more than double the IQ loss caused by regularly smoking marijuana, according to separate studies, although King’s College researcher Dr. Glenn Wilson noted the IQ loss from what he calls ‘infomania’ is likely more fleeting than from pot smoking or insomnia. Playing two games in this state does not produce a fun experience, it’s a good thinking I won’t remember any of it because…
  4. Multitasking interrupts the natural process of remembering.  When we interrupt one task with another the memory of what we’re working on will be impaired. We often assume that our memories fail at the moment we can’t recall a fact or concept, the failure may actually have occurred earlier, at the time we originally saved, or encoded, the memory. In the case of my games, I was not able to remember some of the thingsI needed to do.
  5.  Multitasking produces more errors. The truth is no one really multitasks. We switch task quickly.The brain can only focus on 5-7 task at a time, so if we try to more on multiple complex tasks at once there is a good chance some things will fall through the cracks. When I was playing 2 different games at once my divided attention lead to the inevitable outcome of making mistakes. I was not able to sustain my attention on all the multiple indicators and feedbacks and strategies required to excel at both games simultaneously.

So my multi-gaming experience turned out to be a real failure but maybe we can all learn from it and all the research out there that clearly outlines why it’s stupid to multitask. Games and technology are not bad in themselves, it’s the way we use them that needs some attention. I think texting and getting distracted by technology  at work our in the classroom is a folly that needs to be curbed. At Zap Zap Math we create games for learning. We are trying to make math drills and practice that students will be fully engaged in. This 100% attention simulates the perfect environment for high performance, flow and learning effectiveness. As long as they don’t try playing 2 games at once 😉

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