The next time you are about to undertake major multitasking, meditation training beforehand could make the work smoother and less stressful, suggest University of Washington (Washington, USA) researchers. David Levy and colleagues recruited three groups of 12–15 human resource managers for the study.
One group received eight weeks of mindfulness-based meditation training; another received eight weeks of body relaxation training. Members of the third, a control group, received no training at first, then after eight weeks were given the same training as the first group. Before and after each eight-week period, the participants were given a stressful test of their multitasking abilities, requiring them to use email, calendars, instant-messaging, telephone and word-processing tools to perform common office tasks. Researchers measured the participants’ speed, accuracy and the extent to which they switched tasks. The participants’ self-reported levels of stress and memory while performing the tasks were also noted. The meditation group reported lower levels of stress during the multitasking test while those in the control group or whom received only relaxation training did not. The meditation training seemed to help participants concentrate longer without their attention being diverted. Those who meditated beforehand spent more time on tasks and switched tasks less often, but took no longer to complete the overall job than the others. After training, both the meditators and those trained in relaxation techniques showed improved memory for the tasks they were performing.
- Levy D, Wobbrock J, et al. “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment,” Proceedings of Graphics Interface, May 2012.