Multitasking is Overrated
But I’ll finish my work!
I have a good grade in here–what does it matter?
Come on Mr. B, it ain’t bothering anyone!
Students–and many adults–believe they can efficiently work while doing countless things at once. The statements above represent typical student responses when they attempt to justify Twitter or YouTube browsing in my Digital Storytelling course, where I’ve determined that it is too much trouble to try and police the internet or turn on strong filters. How can I get students to realize that their work quality is diminished by their constantly shifting focus? Multitasking is what they’re used to. It’s what they do.
Related to the idea of leisure and rapidly blurring boundaries between focus, distraction, and instant entertainment is the relatively new phenomenon of extreme multitasking. Multitasking, which perhaps helps feed our info itches and makes our brains feel good, is overrated. I’m determined to finish this blog post without checking my e-mail. Or responding to a text. Or checking Sports Illustrated online. So far, I’m doing well. But I am also drawn to the instant connection and information always one click or touch pad swipe away.
With many technological applications, it’s crucial to ask what we are missing if we fully embrace gadgetry and connectivity at all times. My sister Carolyn, who works at National Geographic in Washington, D.C., summed up a poignant reason to step away from connectivity and multitasking:
The most positive and awesome (in the true sense of the word) experiences I have had in life were never ones where I was multitasking. Preserving space to deeply enjoy, play, focus, perform, create etc. drops you in to a different brain state where you don’t have thoughts and words zooming around. Throwing that touchdown pass or nailing a solo is “wordless.”
Thanks Carolyn, I couldn’t have said it any better.
I think about recent dinner parties and backyard pot lucks, with great food, conversation, laughter, and no need or pull to turn on my phone. I think about pulling weeds in the garden, prepping soil for a new seedling, watering the plants, and engaging in the process of growing food.
I think about taking a hike in Jefferson Memorial Forest with my fiancee Rebecca, getting temporarily lost, muddy shoes and footprints and paw prints in the snow, and the satisfaction of observation, conversation, and seeing my breath against the grey Kentucky winter sky. Getting back to the visitor center for some hot chocolate.
I think about building furniture and chicken coops, when time flies and you eventually see the feel the tangible results of creation–splinters, paint stains, and all.
Of course, as Carolyn noted, in addition to the threat multitasking poses to safety with texting and driving and the loss of workplace productivity, we should question whether or not our quality of life is improved by always being connected and bombarded by information and messages.
Does multitasking seem unavoidable in your life/workplace? Do you have any awesome experiences that included multitasking?