What? I said stop multitasking. What?

multitaskA recent story in the New York Times says there’s increasing evidence that if you’re multitasking all day, you’re getting a lot less done in the end.

“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”

The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways. “But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once,” said René Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University.

What does this have to do with travel? A lot. If you’re trying to get the most out of your travel experience, carrying around a laptop, a cell phone, and a GPS receiver is going to make you much less aware of what’s really going on around you. Walking around some 8th-century ruins with white earplugs cranking music is akin to reading a book while watching TV: you’re only half concentrating on both. If you’re going to be sneaking peeks at a crackberry while those Balinese dancers are swirling in front of you, then why leave the hotel?

Unplug, turn off, and open up your senses. You’ll be a much more perceptive traveler–and you might even have some real conversations with the people right in front of you instead of the ones thousands of miles away.

[flickr photo by Jagger]

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