Pearls of Wisdom

Multitasking: Go For it. Get Less Done.

Just the other day as I was about to run downstairs to get a bowl of soup, a tweet crossed my computer screen from the New York Times, which I follow on Twitter. The tweet referred to an article that had been published in April, 2016 by Cultural Studies contributor Verena von Pfeten. It was entitled Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?), and can be found here. As a long-time skeptic of the benefits of multitasking, I thought that it would be a good read over my chicken noodle soup, and I returned to my desk ready to see if the author was in my camp.

It was not a long article at 1,254 words, but between slurps of soup, various beeps and buzzes from my computer, my iPhone and my iPad, an unanswered phone call from an unfamiliar number and an unintended visit to the on-line Brooks Brothers shirt sale (an accidental ad click), I read the last sentence of the article over 30 minutes later. I’ve never actually known what my natural reading rate is, so I tested it. Assuming that I could read undisturbed for a minute, I grabbed my nearest copy of Financial Analyst Journal and read naturally for one minute. 292 words (and a few Greek letters). It should have taken me 4 minutes and 15 seconds to read the NYT article rather than more than half an hour.

So go ahead and try the test. See if you can read the article in less than 5 minutes. It might remind you of reading Treasure Island under the covers with a flashlight as a child. JEH


Source: The New York Times “Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)” April 29, 2016.
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