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Multitasking Makes You Less Efficient

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By Allan Holmes March 14, 2007

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In today's work environment, we are frequently asked -- like our computers-- to multitask. At times, it may feel like you are being pulled in five directions at once. With all those simultaneous demands (writing a memo while talking on the phone only to switch over to tap out an email message on your BlackBerry while listening to a PowerPoint presentation), do you feel like you are performing as well as you could?

Well, you aren't, says Russell Poldrack, a UCLA psychology professor who has studied how the brain operates when multitasking. According to his research published last year, but which has just recently reached the mainstream press, we humans -- unlike our computers -- are not wired to multitask. Multitasking, Poldrack said in an interview with National Public Radio last week, "drives us to be less efficient." Could Poldrack have part of the answer to why IT projects so often fail: Project managers try to do too much at one time. How many projects are you working on at one time? And do you think multitasking distracts you to the point of not doing as good a job as you are capable of doing?

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