Multitasking: Maximum Effectiveness, Minimum Errors.


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Multitasking has long been a part of emergency services but only recently have advances in neuroscience, cognitive psychology and functional MRI studies allowed us to peer into the multitasking mind and the parts of the brain that control it. New information shows us how we can better train our students and ourselves to improve multitasking, filter out “task noise” and identify when to sidestep multitasking to avoid costly clinical, tactical and managerial mistakes.

Teaching Formats:
-Demonstration Exercises
-Question and Answer

Learning Objectives: Students will learn:
- The difference between multitasking and task-switching.
- The function of the Executive System of the brain.
- The difference between automatic and controlled thought processes.
- How to focus training to prepare students for a multitasking environment.
- When and how to avoid multitasking for better trouble-shooting and decision-making (clinical, tactical, managerial).

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  • 2007 Family Work Institute
  • Multitasking: Maximum Effectiveness, Minimum Errors.

    1. 1. MULTITASKING How much is TOO much?
    2. 2. Multitasking and Emergency Services <ul><li>Each and every day you play many roles: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Commander </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Administrator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Counselor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advocate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Liaison </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technician </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consultant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Driver </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Radio operator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Equipment Specialist </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How many of these roles do you find yourself attempting to perform at the same time? </li></ul>
    3. 3. Multitasking and Emergency Services <ul><li>On each and every emergency response you will play many roles: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Healer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Counselor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advocate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Liaison </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Technician </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consultant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Driver </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Radio operator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Equipment Specialist </li></ul></ul><ul><li>How many of these roles do you find yourself attempting to perform at the same time? </li></ul>
    4. 4. Multitasking and Emergency Services <ul><li>&quot;To do two things at once is to do neither. ” </li></ul><ul><li>– Publilius Syrus 1 st Century BC </li></ul>
    5. 5. The History of Multitasking <ul><li>Multitasking at work? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>45% of American workers feel they are expected to work on too many tasks at once! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Computer term 1960s </li></ul><ul><li>Multimedia term 1990s </li></ul><ul><li>Multitasking at work? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>100% of firefighters feel they are expected to work on too many tasks at once! </li></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Who ’s good at Multitasking? <ul><li>Women vs Men </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Studies show that neither gender is good at multitasking </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Millennials and Multitasking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gex X, Gen Y and Millenials perform multitasking more than previous generations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Studies show that they are no better at multitasking than their predecessors. </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. But I do it all the time! <ul><li>Frequent multitasking does not change the limits of what the brain can process. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>more stimuli = less attention to each item </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>100 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>50 / 50 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>40 / 40 / 20 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>100 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>50 / 50 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>100 % </li></ul></ul><ul><li>LOSS TO TASK SWITCHING </li></ul>
    8. 8. The Science of Multitasking <ul><li>Experiment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Touch your finger to your nose. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Feel your finger and your nose at the same time? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cranial vs Peripheral Nerves. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We live .5 seconds in the past </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. The Science of Multitasking <ul><li>We are not capable of true multitasking </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Like the thaumatrope, rapid task switching creates the illusion of multitasking. </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. The Familiar and the Focused <ul><li>Familiar + Familiar = OK </li></ul><ul><li>Focused = OK </li></ul><ul><li>Familiar + Focused = NOT OK! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jogging and listening to music = OK </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Watch tv when your significant other is telling you about his or her day = NOT OK! </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. The Science of Multitasking
    12. 12. The Science of Multitasking
    13. 13. The Science of Multitasking <ul><li>Task Switching </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Switch from Automatic to Automatic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No Delay </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Switch to Controlled </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Significant delay </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Limited Perception and Recording </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interference and Distraction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Trigger Controlled Process </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Resultant Cognitive delays </li></ul></ul></ul>
    14. 14. The Science of Multitasking <ul><li>Experiment </li></ul>
    15. 15. The Science of Multitasking <ul><li>The Executive System </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not one isolated part. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Primarily prefrontal cortex. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Handles Controlled Processes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Handles Task Switching. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Air Traffic Controller. </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Multitasking and Performance <ul><li>Hewlett Packard and Pitney Bowes studies show decrease in productivity. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2007 NY Times Article: $650 Billion in lost productivity due to “Information Overload” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hewlett Packard and Pitney Bowes studies show decrease in productivity. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2007 NY Times Article: $650 Billion in lost productivity due to “Information Overload” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Too much multitasking can also cause </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Stress Cortisol release </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Short term memory loss </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inability to concentrate </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Stress Damage to the Pre-Frontal Cortex </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Short term memory loss </li></ul></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Multitasking and Clinical Skills <ul><li>ED / Critical Care studies show information loss during interruptions. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ED Physicians interrupted approximately every 10 minutes. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Direct impact on clinical patient care. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Information Loss </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Diagnostic Errors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Medication Errors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Poor Clinical Judgment </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This is in a “controlled” environment. </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. Experiment #3 #3 Find the Red Vertical Bar #4 Find the 2 in the 5s
    19. 19. Multitasking and Education Experiment: Find the 2 in the 5s
    20. 20. The Illusion of Attention <ul><li>“ If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Sir Isaac Newton (1720s) </li></ul>
    21. 21. <ul><li>Get out Pen and Paper </li></ul><ul><li>Players in White: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Count Bounce Passes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Count Straight Passes </li></ul></ul>Please do the following
    22. 22. Monkey Business 1 <ul><li>Text </li></ul>Pay Attention!
    23. 23. <ul><li>How many saw the Gorilla? </li></ul><ul><li>How many knew what to expect? </li></ul>Show Of Hands
    24. 24. <ul><li>How many players left the game? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>0 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>1 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3 </li></ul></ul>Show Of Hands
    25. 25. <ul><li>Did anything else change? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The players shirts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The balls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The curtain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nothing changed </li></ul></ul>Show Of Hands
    26. 26. Monkey Business 2 One More Time!
    27. 27. The Science of Multitasking <ul><li>The Magic Number Seven </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The limits of what we can maintain in Working Memory. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Phone numbers were originally 7 digits. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>License plates typically 7 characters. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Span of Control in NIMS and ICS is 7. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>I give you, the 7 solutions to Multitasking. </li></ul></ul>
    28. 28. Multitasking and EMS <ul><li>“ Concentrate all your work upon the task at hand. </li></ul><ul><li>The Sun ’s rays do not burn until focused!” </li></ul><ul><li>– Alexander Graham Bell (1920s) </li></ul>
    29. 29. What can we do about it? <ul><li>1) FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND </li></ul><ul><li>Identify & focus on Controlled Processes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Decide what needs our full attention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Triage and prioritize </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recognize Controlled Processes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pay attention to that priority </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Serial Task </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Increase Efficiency </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Reduce Errors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Don ’t miss the Gorilla </li></ul></ul></ul>
    30. 30. What can we do about it? <ul><li>2) DELEGATE </li></ul><ul><li>Do more by doing less! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Delegate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hand off to colleagues / subordinates </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hand off to the hardware </li></ul></ul></ul>
    31. 31. What can we do about it? <ul><li>2) OFF LOAD TASKS </li></ul><ul><li>Do more by doing less! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Delegate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hand off to colleagues / subordinates / machines </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Team Members </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Chief ’s Aide </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Safety Officer </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>ICS </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Checklists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Remove the task of memory </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Remove the task of interface </li></ul></ul></ul>
    32. 32. Multitasking and EMS <ul><li>“ There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not enough time in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Lord Chesterfield (1740s) </li></ul>
    33. 33. What can we do about it? <ul><li>3) MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS / INTERUPTIONS </li></ul><ul><li>The Chief Can’t See You Now </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Set Up A Buffer </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Command from a distance. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Define channels of communication. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Minimize channel scanning. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sterile Cockpit Conditions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clear the Air </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Crew Resource Management </li></ul></ul>
    34. 34. What can we do about it? <ul><ul><li>Engineering Controls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Prompting reduces errors by moving tasks from Controlled to Automatic. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Grouping items together: Pediatrics Kit. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Labeling: Color Coding Medical Syringes. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Access Control: Med Systems </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Alarms: Machine Monitored Limits </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>4) ESTABLISH PROMPTS </li></ul>
    35. 35. What can we do about it?
    36. 36. What can we do about it? <ul><li>5) MAKE IT AUTOMATIC </li></ul><ul><li>Simulation and Stimulation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If automatic is faster and easier then let ’s make more things Automatic. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focus on Fundamentals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sports Professionals achieve a higher level of playing the game by practicing fundamentals so that they are Automatic, freeing their brain to work on the Controlled processes of strategy and tactics. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How can we do the same in emergency services? </li></ul></ul></ul>
    37. 37. What can we do about it? <ul><li>6) EXERCISE YOUR HEART </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Aerobic Exercise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Overall fitness will improve the outcome of all tasks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Aerobic fitness improves cognition and function </li></ul></ul></ul>
    38. 38. What can we do about it? <ul><li>7) EXERCISE YOUR BRAIN </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Multitasking Training </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Training can also enhance the Executive System. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>The transferability of task improvement is debated. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Recent research from Vanderbilt University shows Improvements in the ability to prioritize and task switch and a streamlining of executive functions. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    39. 39. SUMMARY <ul><li>” A man’s got to know his limitations.” </li></ul><ul><li>– Dirty Harry, Magnum Force (1973) </li></ul>
    40. 40. SUMMARY <ul><li>The specifics can be debated, but the core is irrefutable. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The Human Brain is not designed to multitask. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multitasking is a necessary evil that must be managed, much like Godzilla. </li></ul></ul>
    41. 41. SUMMARY <ul><ul><li>Multitasking affects the way we live and the way that we work on the street. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multitasking can be a necessary evil. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The seven things we can do to manage multitasking. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>1) Focus on the task at hand </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2) Delegate Tasks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>3) Minimize Distractions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4) Establish Prompts </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>5) Training: Focus on fundamentals </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>6) Exercise Your Heart </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>7) Exercise Your Brain </li></ul></ul></ul>
    42. 42. Multitasking & the rest of your life <ul><li>C. Parkinson ’s Law: </li></ul><ul><li>“ Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” </li></ul><ul><li>Man Law: No Multitasking. </li></ul>
    43. 43. Find Me At… Questions, comments, feedback and to find additional resources on this and other topics: