Stats Made Easy

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Black belt master of multitasking?

Don’t Read This in Traffic says this article by Steve Lohr of New York Times, which many busy residents of that hyperactive city probably viewed on their internet-enabled cell phones while waiting in traffic. The multitask that I assigned this week to executive Six Sigma students at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business seemed easy in comparison: While sitting, rotate your right foot clockwise in sigmoidal fashion and then trace the number 6 in the air with your right hand. This stumped the entire class, so none could be declared black belts of Six Sigma, at least so far as being adept at tracing the symbols simultaneously. Do you think you can do it? Go ahead and try!

Seriously though, Lohr’s article did provide some good observations on multitasking:
-- Check e-mail once per hour at most
-- Listen to soothing background music – preferably not with lyrics
-- Figure on 15 minutes being lost for every interruption to a serious mental task, such as composing computer code.

This last point explains why I seem to get so much writing done while home alone, working early in the morning before my staff arrives and filling in dead time at airports and during flights – I need uninterrupted time to compose my thoughts. On the other hand, tasks that do not require much thought, like filing and following up on things, can be knocked off right and left – interruptions and all. Now if only I’d get this Six Sigma thing figured out and get my hand multitasking with my foot.

PS. That reminds me of an amazing multitasking feat (feet?): Seeing my oldest daughter Emily -- already an accomplished pianist, learn to play the church organ. This musical instrument requires playing with both hands and both feet! It boggles my mind just thinking of trying to keep track of all these things simultaneously.


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