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The kitchen water is running, you hear it. Your hands are moving a sponge about, but you don’t really feel as if you are in control. Your ear is closely nestled to your shoulder. Keeping a rather slick phone gently wedged. You are listening intently and responding to the caller when necessary as if you were superhuman. The art of multitasking is just that, an art form, but a potentially risky one. Washing dishes and chatting on the phone simultaneously like many other tasks can easily be done, but some tasks require a different state of consciousness.
When you think of the word conscious, typically you may think of one. The present. Focused awareness or “heightened alertness” is when you are widely awake, fully alert and completely consumed by the task at hand. Facebook is the new taker of focus and time. Research has shown that the brain responds differently when viewing Facebook pages than when watching beautiful nature scenes pass by or when performing stressful math problems. Facebook evokes a distinct physiological response pattern called a “core flow state” which is classified by a pleasurable arousal and focused awareness. In other words, your consciousness is completely absorbed in the task at hand. There are many tasks that also require focus awareness, such as reading, writing and studying. When your conscious is in the state of focus awareness, you can easily lose awareness of time. External stimuli such as horns, air conditioner rambling or internal stimuli such as hunger pains and thirst are of no concern.
Typically, you cannot multitask when you are in a state of focused awareness. Listening to music while writing or studying does not fair well. Studying takes a conscious that is fully engrossed in the task at hand, while music may seem as harmless as a car horn, the constant sound may disrupt the consciousness. The lyrics or rhythm of the music may cause drifting consciousness or daydreaming. Daydreaming is a form of consciousness during a waking state in which your mind wonders off task to a realm of dreamy thoughts and fantasies, or distracting stimuli. After a dreamy study session your lesson progression is zero and you must restart a new with fully focused consciousness.
Multitasking while driving is semi harmless on the surface. Driving takes a form of “mechanical task” which is typically one of the tasks while in a state of divided consciousness. Divided consciousness occurs when we simultaneously perform two different activities. When we perform these tasks part of our brain seems to be on an automatic pilot while the other part is free to think about other things. If that other task doesn’t take our entire focus. Texting and driving are extremely dangerous. Texting will take your consciousness off track and that split second is often all it takes for a deadly accident. As psychologist David Strayer, a leading researcher in the field, says, “It’s not that your hands aren’t on the wheel…. It’s that your mind is not on the road”. However, ordinary conversations with passengers are not nearly as distracting as talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.
Some tasks such as washing dishes and talking on the phone are entirely manageable. Singing a song or thinking of missing lyrics while driving is not nearly as dangerous as texting and driving. Before multitasking, you should think of the amount of focus needed for one task. Is it a mechanical task or does it require your full attention? Your brain can not do to high level activities at one time, it just does not function that way. Multitasking is an art form, that requires basic knowledge of how your brain functions. Doing two things at once is entirely feasible but take caution to maintain focus when needed.
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