Online Newsletter for Call Center Personnel
Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D. Editor and Publisher
Volume V, Issue 12

Date: December 1, 2004 - Do You Multitask? Part III

I find the following fascinating--since at this moment while I'm creating this newsletter, I'm interrupted by phone calls, e-mails, staff, and my mind reminding me what is left in my Daytimer to be done today!

How do we do it? Research shows that the ability to multi-task stems from a spot right behind the forehead. That's the anterior part of the region neuroscientists call the "executive" part of the brain--the prefrontal cortex. When we assess tasks, prioritize them, and assign mental resources, these frontal lobes are doing most of the work.

This same region of the brain is where we pull off another uniquely human trick that is key to multi-tasking-"marking" the spot at which a task has been interrupted, so we can return to it later.

However, the prefrontal cortex is the most damaged as a result of prolonged stress--particularly the kind of stress that makes a person feel out-of-control and helpless. The kind of stress, for example, that you might feel when overwhelmed by the demands of multi-tasking.

Such stress also will cause the death of brain cells in another region--the hippocampus, which is critical to the formation of new memories. Damage there can hobble a person's ability to learn and retain new facts and skills.

When a person multi-tasks well--without errors or disastrous results--it is usually because one or more of the tasks engaged in has become automatic. For example, I can eat lunch and read the newspaper or an industry magazine at the same time, because eating really involves no conscious thought. I'm sure you can think of instances where you've had similar experiences.

This concludes the series on Multitasking. I hope you are not multitasking as you read this!

QUOTE OF THE MONTH: Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there. Josh Billings

References: Healy, M. We're All Multitasking. LA Times, July 19, 2004, pg. F 1. Weil, M. & Rosen, L.D. TechnoStress. NJ: John Wiley, 1997.

2004 Human Technologies Global, Inc. All rights reserved

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