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To multitask or not? This is the question

When I was little, my parents taught me to do one thing at a time and do it the best possible. Not trying to start ten projects or jump from one thing to another without finishing what I began first. Although I’ve always had the internal push to do several things at one time, I kept remembering their advice and trying to stick to it. As much as possible. Back then, the idea of multitasking wasn’t around and known to us, but I believe they were right. And recent studies seem to back them up as well.

According to Larry Kim, Founder and CTO WordStream, our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time, and bombarding them with information only slows them down. MIT neuroscientist  Earl Miller notes that our brains are “not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”

This constant task-switching encourages bad brain habits. When we complete a tiny task (sending an email, answering a text message, posting a tweet), we are hit with a dollop of dopamine, our reward hormone. “Our brains love that dopamine, and so we’re encouraged to keep switching between small mini-tasks that give us instant gratification. This creates a dangerous feedback loop that makes us feel like we’re accomplishing a ton, when we’re really not doing much at all (or at least nothing requiring much critical thinking). In fact, some even refer to email/Twitter/Facebook-checking as a neural addiction,” said Larry Kim for inc.com.

As shown by Marketing Week,  Academics at Vanderbilt University found evidence in 2006 that the brain’s frontal lobe creates a “bottleneck of information processing that severely limits our ability to multitask”. The proliferation of media channels and devices makes this worse. Another study, published by  Stanford University researchers in 2009, found “heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory”.  And this hampers the ability to switch between tasks.

We can shift our focus really fast, sometimes it takes just a 10th of a second. But the time doesn’t matter as much as the bandwidth the brain requires to move back and forth. Now that might affect your performance, and might also affect the quality of the work that you finally produce.

New research suggests the possibility that cognitive damage associated with multi-tasking could be permanent.

A study from the University of Sussex (UK) ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, the area responsible for empathy and emotional control. Unfortunately, the research isn’t detailed enough to determine if multitasking is responsible for these affects, or if existing brain damage results in multitasking habits.

Moreover,  there have been studies that show  women are generally better at  multitasking than men. Also, people who thought they were the best at  multitasking are almost always in fact the  worst. In fact, multitasking seems to be something not all of us are truly able to achieve, as only about 2% of the population is formed of  super multitaskers (people who are truly able to do several different activities at the same time without losing efficiency or losing quality as they do all that work). Most of us don’t have this gift.

According to Forbes, the problem with trying to multi-task is all that shifting back and forth between tasks isn’t all that efficient because, each time we do it, it takes our brain some time to refocus. So while it might seem efficient on the surface, it isn’t – studies show that multi-tasking can  reduce productivity by as much as 40%.

More than that, a study published by the American Psychological Association concluded that the ability to switch between tasks, which they term, “mental flexibility” generally peaks in the 20s and then decreases with age, in average of 30.9% from a person in their 40s to a person in their 70s. The extent to which it decreases depends upon the type of tasks being performed.  The information is back up by another study, this time around conducted on UK soil, at  the University of London where the results have shown that the participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks, experienced an IQ score decline similar to those who have stayed up all night. Some of the multitasking men had their IQ drop 15 points, leaving them with the average IQ of an 8-year-old child.

How to choose the best antivirus software for you – Part I

Every smart PC owner knows that one of the most important features he / she needs for their computer / laptop is a good antivirus software. But how do you know which one is the right one for you? The answer may be a complex one, since PC users have many different levels of security needs. According to Norton’s website, if you plan to use the Internet sparingly, you’ll have different needs than someone looking for the best computer antivirus software for gaming. And those who do all of their banking online may have different needs than those who need child protection filters. And those who stay up to date on the most current security threats can use different tools than someone who is rather likely to fall for them.

Many different companies claim to have the best PC antivirus software out there, making things even more complicated. Most PCs begin their life with a certain security program installed, and customers must pay to continue the service. One thing is completely clear: A PC user should not go without using an antivirus program.

According to lifewire.com, the first step you should take is narrow your options based on the operating system you use. If you’re planning to upgrade in the near future (or downgrade), take that into consideration as well “Second, assess how you use your computer. Are you a heavy Web surfer? A gamer? Have an older computer? How you use your computer will dictate the level of protection you need. For example, a gamer will appreciate antivirus software that recognizes when games or media are being played and suppresses any non-essential alerts or activities. Someone with an older computer will likely need to be concerned with system impact and performance, as well as facing the added challenge of finding antivirus that supports the older operating system,” Mary Landersman.

The choice of the Best Antivirus depends on the personal needs and preferences of the particular user. Some antiviruses exceed at being fast and efficient, those are well suited for laptops and older computers. Some are easy to manage, those are well suited for new users. Some have lots of additional features like secure payment processing, browser protection etc. and some have a very good value to price rating. You can think about getting a free or a paid version.

One can understand why you would choose a free version, but a paid version is easier to install, doesn’t have advertisements attached to it, updates simultaneously, automatically using the latest virus information and offers additional features such as parental controls. Paid virus protection systems often include useful extras such as backup and recovery tools, useful if your PC crashes, and performance enhancement utilities that ensure that your laptop or PC are running at their most efficient. There is also the advantage of high quality customer support and technical back-up, often lacking in free software versions.

Coming back to the steps you need to take, lifewire.com, says that after narrowing down the list to those that meet your operating system and usage needs, you should check the major certification and testing agencies to see how the antivirus scanners fare. Agencies include  VB100%CheckmarkICSA LabsAV-TestAV-Comparatives, and  NSS Labs. Any antivirus scanner worth consideration should be listed by most of these antivirus testing agencies. “Fourth: detection, detection, detection. While you’re checking for certification, be sure to check out the test scores. Pick the antivirus software that consistently delivers the highest detection and proactive protection scores. After all, this is the only reason you’re getting antivirus software – to prevent and detect viruses. Fifth: last but not least, evaluate. Narrow the selection down to 2 or maybe 3 antivirus scanners, then proceed to test each one,” concluded Mary Landersman, for the website.

Other questions you should ask yourself first are: Does this software update automatically or scan in real time?, Does this software come with other features?, Can your computer support the security software?, Is the software rated or recognized by major publications or sites?, Do you visit spammy sites (such as gaming sites), or do you practice safe surfing?, Do you update your computer frequently? Norton Antivirus tries to help you answer some of those questions and explains why they are important here.

Moving on, you should pay attention to the features you want your antivirus to contain:

Ransomware protection: Some antiviruses come with ransomware protection. You select some files and documents to  protect in case of a ransomware attack. Afterwards, the ransomware won’t be able to encrypt the blocked files.

File shredder: The standard “Delete” + “Clear Recycle Bin”   won’t actually delete a file from your hard drive. It will just make it invisible for you to see. But these files can be recovered with a specialized program. In normal circumstances, these invisible files disappear only after being pushed out of their memory block by a new ones. But file shredders destroy them completely and leave no trace of them on your hard drive.

Firewall: Some AV’s can filter and scan your internet traffic to detect incoming threats before they reach your device.

DNS Protection, Password Managers, System Optimization, Phishing protection, Antispam, Browser protection.

End of Part I

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