The Task at Hand

Many people on today’s roadways think they can multi-task. What’s worse, they think they can do it well. Silly games that go back to when we were kids prove that the brain can only focus on one thing well. Like tapping your head and rubbing your belly at the same time and then switching to rubbing your head and tapping your belly without interrupting the flow. So here is a little exercise you can do in the class to stress the importance of focusing on the task at hand and not to be consumed with today’s distractions.

Items Needed:

  • Shallow tray (1)
  • Plastic cups (4)
  • Pitcher of water (1)

Delivery:

  • Draw a fill line on each cup with a Sharpie approximately three to four inches up from the bottom.
  • Place each empty cup in line on the shallow tray.
  • Select one student to perform the exercise and one to keep time.
  • Have the student fill each cup to the fill line using the pitcher of water and time them on how long it takes and if there was any spillage.
  • Next, have the same student perform the exercise again. This time he/she will need to send as many text messages as possible while completing the task of filling each cup only to the line.

(A variation could be to use the simple addition problems used in the card sorting exercise published previously as the distracter.)

Results:

  • The participant should be able fill each cup to the line easily when focused on that specific task.
  • When the participant repeats the exercise, the instructor should notice that the cups are not equally filled and there is probably some spillage on the tray. Additionally, the time it takes to complete the task should increase.

The Message:

Just because we may be able to do several tasks a onetime does not mean we can do those tasks well. As you can see from the results _(insert student name here)__ can pour water and text but the task was performed much better when all he/she had to do was one task instead of multiple tasks. Like focusing on how much water to pour, driving requires your full attention.

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