Researchers believe we accomplishing less when we are multi-tasking

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A distant look tells you the mind is not totally focused, but the digital age is a time of information overload. (KFSN)

A distant look tells you the mind is not totally focused, but the digital age is a time of information overload.

"I can listen to music, I can text, I can be on Instagram or Facebook. Checking email while I'm also working in the kitchen cooking or paying bills on the computer," said Pam Hernandez, Fresno.

UC San Francisco brain researcher Dr. Adam Gazzaley said you are not multi-tasking-- you are actually task switching.

"There's basic limitations in what our brain can do. So there's only so much information we can hold in mind at the same time."

In Dr. Gazzaley's new book "The Distracted Mind," he argues our brains were never meant to multi-task.

When we focus on one thing, the part of our brain which handles abstract thinking takes over. But when we absorb several sources at once, it's forced to switch back and forth.

"And with each of those switches, there's a loss of the high resolution of that information," said Dr. Gazzaley.

The result can be really sloppy work and slower response times. New evidence indicates it may be habit forming. One study found young adults typically switch tasks every two minutes.

"They can do five things at one time but they're not focused on the five things at one time. They're being distracted not paying full attention to the task at hand," said John Donnyer, Fresno.

Researchers said you need to start prioritizing important tasks.

"Practice the art of attention. If I have a project that just needs to get done, that's not the time to switch back and forth between Twitter and Facebook and a phone call," said Dr. Gazzaley.

"It's important to do because it can just take over your life," said Grace Pendleton, Fresno.

An exercise break or time spent outdoors can help you avoid brain overload.

Dr. Gazzaley said it's important to set digital downtime, a time when you put your smart phone away. No talking, no texting, no reading of emails and it's important you let family and friends know you are not available-- which understandably is difficult for many.

"I feel like I'm connected 24 hours to my family. It's sort of our life line," said Terri Stevenson, Fresno.

Dr. Gazzaley believes the reward of single tasking can be a more balanced and productive life.
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