In Tobey Deys’ comment about my post regarding the implications of people’s unawareness to television viewing, she asked for my thoughts on the productivity of multi-tasking and to some degree channel surfing.
Generally, there are many studies reference the decline of productivity from these tasks. We frequently hear about cell phones and driving for example. However, there are five contrarian considerations:
- Situational awareness varies by person
- Situation might require it
- Over focus produces narrow-mindedness
- Synchronicity could occur
- Enjoyment could result
First, the negative effects of multi-tasking and channel surfing will vary by person. Two people can focus on the same task and retain a different degree of awareness with respect to their surroundings. Thus, varying levels of situational awareness can make multi-tasking and channel surfing less costly for some.
Second, the situation might demand multi-tasking. Rather than focus on one task at a time, productivity might increase if we coordinate the performance all tasks such as running errands.
Third, over focus can prevent us from seeing other opportunities for increasing productivity. Here, multi-tasking and channel surfing can retard the effects of anchoring in which we become too wedded to an approach.
Fourth, these activities allow synchronicity to play out by allowing us to “stumble” upon people, information or other resources that might benefit us later rather than now.
Finally, we might find so much enjoyment in multi-tasking and channel surfing that we become more productive because our attitude improves.
In the end, these activities are a personal decision. People are too different to apply findings without modifications. Of course, there is also the point that sometimes having fun is more important than being productive.