Author Topic: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"  (Read 4542 times)

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Scott

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Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« on: Aug 31, 2009, 11:02 am »
[Moderators -- not sure what forum this belongs in.]

For those of you who think you can take blocking, text, and check your email at the same time...please take note of this recent study, as described in the NY Times.

“Multitaskers were just lousy at everything...it turns out that high multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy...[they] think they’re great at what they do; and they’ve convinced everybody else they’re good at it, too.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/30/weekinreview/30pennebaker.html?_r=1

Tempest

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #1 on: Aug 31, 2009, 02:16 pm »
How terribly interesting!  And depressing.  I don't think that it's possible to do the job of a stage manager without some-to-a-lot of multitasking.  Things just happen too fast for us to focus on only one thing until it's done!
My ASM got trapped in her apartment complex by downed trees, yesterday.  At one point I found myself being on-book, writing line notes, tracking changes in blocking, writing an e-mail to the costume designer and trying to choreograph complex scene changes on paper, as it was our first day in the space with all the moving parts, and we get crew starting tomorrow.  I know I wasn't doing the first three to optimum levels.  We'll see about the scene changes, tomorrow!

Wow.  I really am depressed by that article.
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

Lauren

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #2 on: Aug 31, 2009, 03:05 pm »
I don't think that it's possible to do the job of a stage manager without some-to-a-lot of multitasking.  Things just happen too fast for us to focus on only one thing until it's done!


I agree. However when we multi-task it is, as tempest_gypsy later listed, all related to our job. Thus the things we are working on are more-or-less still on the same track (all related to the show) in our brain. Yes, we will compromise doing some things to the absolute best of our ability because we are unable to focus on one at a time, but it is those who think they are able to do our job even half-decently while texting their best friend about getting together tonight and checking Facebook that unnerve me.

Hmm... I am very saddened by this article, though it was very good. I am very interested to see what they find in follow-up studies.
"The truth is rarely pure, and never simple" -Oscar Wilde

Scott

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #3 on: Aug 31, 2009, 07:21 pm »
I don't think that it's possible to do the job of a stage manager without some-to-a-lot of multitasking.  Things just happen too fast for us to focus on only one thing until it's done!


I agree. However when we multi-task it is, as tempest_gypsy later listed, all related to our job.

Well, I would say in the example given by Tempest_gypsy, that being on book, writing line notes and tracking changes in blocking are all one "track" and can be done at once: sending an email to the costume designer and trying to choreograph complex scene changes are two seperate tracks that have nothing to to do with paying attention to the rehearsal and should properly be part of homework.

Tempest

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #4 on: Sep 01, 2009, 03:06 pm »
Oh, wow!  I'd love to do homework.  Unfortunately, I've got a director who wants everything as soon as they think about it.  "Hey, I know this is the first time you've seen the scenic pieces and how well they work, and you know nothing about our crew's capabilities, yet.  But I want to know exactly how all these set changes are going to happen and I need it before we change to the next scene.  Make it like a dance."   ::)

I'd love to know exactly what sort of multitasking tasks they had the subjects doing, and if the proportion of technical vs. human interaction tasks affected performance?
Jessica: "Of course I have a metric size 4 dinglehopper in my kit!  Who do you think I am?"

missliz

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #5 on: Sep 01, 2009, 03:46 pm »
Oh, wow!  I'd love to do homework.  Unfortunately, I've got a director who wants everything as soon as they think about it.  "Hey, I know this is the first time you've seen the scenic pieces and how well they work, and you know nothing about our crew's capabilities, yet.  But I want to know exactly how all these set changes are going to happen and I need it before we change to the next scene.  Make it like a dance."   ::)

I'd love to know exactly what sort of multitasking tasks they had the subjects doing, and if the proportion of technical vs. human interaction tasks affected performance?

The kept referencing things that weren't really in the same "track," like driving, texting, and drinking coffee. I think there's a difference between "keeping a lot of things in your head at once" (switching between a lot of related thoughts on one subject- i.e. SMing) and the type of multitasking they're talking about. I certainly think that people who try to juggle a bunch of things that aren't related are going to have a harder time switching between them.
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saladressing

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #6 on: Sep 04, 2009, 05:07 am »
I'd love to know exactly what sort of multitasking tasks they had the subjects doing, and if the proportion of technical vs. human interaction tasks affected performance?

Same here! Also whether it matters if tasks were familiar or completely new.. Like for eg. I couldn't be on book and track blocking at the same time when I first learnt to being on book.. If things have become "habit" it would make sense that they don't take up all our brain-space, leaving us with energy to do other things (proficiently) at the same time.

ScooterSM

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #7 on: Sep 04, 2009, 08:00 am »
I heard an interview on NPR with the author of the study, and here are more details...

The subjects were 250 college age people, who were tested on how easily they were distracted while media multi-tasking.  This included texting, watching tv, using computer, etc.  They also tested the number of errors that people made or how many times they had to restart a task.

I was kind of disturbed when I originally heard the study, since we SM's multi-task as a requirement, but (as many people have said) it seems like this is not necessarily applicable to us.  I would be interested in a study that measured the productivity of multi-taskers handling similar topic but different function tasks, like taking blocking, being on book, and keeping actors quiet at the same time.

Maybe we could get a grant...  :)
“I've never been paid a lot, but the theatre has kept me, and for that I shall be eternally grateful.” Tony Church

maximillionx

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #8 on: Sep 04, 2009, 04:11 pm »
I have to say, this doesn't sound like a "multi-tasking" study.  It sounds like just another memory study (a multi-memory study), but this time it's with a larger amount of variables.  And they say multi-taskers are in a constant state of stress....well, maybe sometimes, but I have to say that for most of my day I'm relatively calm and have a system for all the assignments and duties I have to perform.

I think we can all agree, as SMs we do have to remember a large amount of facts and information over the course of a day (let's not even talk about over the course of a show or season).  But that's why we have note-pads, lists, and forms of organization.  If anything, I feel like SMs are the exception to this "Lousy at everything" conclusion.  We find ways to get around the inefficiencies of the human condition and make things work.  Of course we don't remember every color of people's clothes and what they brought for lunch and who called us when.  But we can build a prop and fix a costume, all while monitoring a show before curtain and giving places and working with a egotistical member of your crew.

And lets think about how other jobs also do the same things as us.  How could you possibly run a company, or a store, or an office, or fill any managerial position without the ability to multi-task.

Personally, I have to declare shenanigans on this study just from what I've read.

ReyYaySM

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Re: Multitaskers are "Lousy at Everything"
« Reply #9 on: Sep 04, 2009, 10:14 pm »
The NPR program on this subject that ScooterSM mentions can be found here.

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