Let me guess, you've read the warnings that multitasking is bad for your performance and your brain. But let me also guess that you do it anyway. Like most members of the modern world, at least occasionally, you probably find the lure of watching that TV show, while replying to an email, and also texting your friend just too hard to resist.
So is there any way to recover once you've indulged in a bit of multi-screen naughtiness? If your brain is racing and your thoughts are scrambled, how do you regain your focus? According to recent research the answer is far simpler than you might think.
The work was done by a team out of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the study design was straightforward. Participants were divided into two groups. One browsed the web before completing tests to measure attention. The other did a short and simple breathing exercise instead, repeatedly counting groups of nine breaths.
The results? It'll come as no shock that the heavy media multitaskers among the participants -- those folks who routinely split their attention between screens -- did worse on the attention tests overall. But what might be surprising is that those who completed the simple breathing exercise were far better at regaining their focus than those who just clicked around the web.
At least in the short-term, "it is possible for heavy media multitaskers to adopt a more focused attentional state," commented psychology professor C. Shawn Green, who is the senior author of the study. All it takes is a pair of lungs and the world's most straightforward mindfulness exercise.
Is your multitasking out of control?
How do you know if you count as a heavy multitasker? Are your attention issues moderate, or are you severely denting your performance with all your screens? To check if your multitasking is affecting your thinking even when you're not actively trying to monitor Twitter while chatting with your co-worker, see if this sounds familiar:
"Many people have had the experience where they've felt a phantom phone ring or vibration in their pocket," Green notes. "That means part of your attention is actively monitoring your leg, even while you're trying to do other things." If that happens to you (confession: it totally happens to me), you might want to consider incorporating this simple breathing task into your work routine, perhaps before you sit down to do something that requires focus.
Are you guilty of media multitasking even though you've no doubt heard it's bad for your brain?