Saturday, September 7, 2013

You May Not be as Good at Multitasking as You Think!

I used to think I was a good multi-tasker and, honestly, it still says so on my resume. I know it's a sham though. Recently I heard a couple of UT professors (Two Guys on Your Head) speaking about multi-tasking and was reminded that I can't actually do it. To put it bluntly, they said something to the effect of: Humans don't multitask. We only have processor. We can do exactly one thing at a time.

Younger folks are apparently better at looking like they're multi-tasking because they can switch between tasks with less effort and more easily remember where they were on the last task. My teens, for example, texting a friend while working on homework, can remember both where they are on the homework and where they are in multiple conversations. Is it the most efficient way to study? No, but it can be done. Nonetheless, it is still not multi-tasking in it's true meaning; it's actually doing one thing at a time in rapid succession. (There is an exception: behavior that has become automatic - toileting, etc.)  At my age (over 50), I'd have to be re-reading the texts to remember where I was and marking the homework in some way so as not to lose my place. 

This was all too obvious yesterday when I was working in the drive through at the bank by myself for a period. We had 5 lanes open so I had to keep speaking to customers as I worked on other's transactions, remember what each person needed and keep all the tubes in arrival order. I did this better than I thought I could but it was very challenging. I kept hearing myself say, "Where was I?"

So did I just write all this to ruin your day? Not at all. I am actually proposing (for myself and you) an alternative. Maybe it is not necessary to keep so many balls in the air at once.  Our rapidly growing technology may have lured us into thinking we have to stay in touch with all our "friends," take phone calls any hour of the day and night, respond to every text and stay caught up on email and Facebook, but it's not actually true. There is something to be said for driving my car without talking on the phone. There is something to be gained from sleeping, uninterrupted by text. There is preciousness in giving my family my undivided attention.

You get the idea. Some attempts at multi-tasking are crucial. No matter what you are doing, you can't take your eye off that toddler, right? However, a lot of it is not only unproductive and unnecessary, it's stealing quality from my life. When I get home from work today, I'm going to turn off my phone, leave my computer stowed, turn on some music and just enjoy Saturday with my peeps. How about you?

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