Sunday, November 11, 2007

Multi-Tasking?

This morning on the "news" they had a piece about multi-tasking (this was one of the national morning news shows). And it got me thinking. Do I multi-task? Should I multi-task?

To me multi-tasking means doing two things (or more) at the same time. In thinking through my day, I realize . . I don't really multi-task. There are lots of times when I am doing one thing (writing my lecture) and I get interrupted by something else (a student needing help or an e-mail I remembered I need to send). But rarely do I ever actually do two things simultaneously. I cant write a blog post while I am waiting for something to print (as I am doing now . . . I had better check on my printing). But now that my paper's are done printing (it's an exam for tomorrow), I can't proof the exam while I am writing.

It turns out, that I can't do two things at once. If I attempt it (ie surf the web while talking to someone on the phone), neither task is done well. The only time I can multi-task is if one of the two things I am doing requires no thinking. I can talk on the phone while doing the dishes. I can knit while watching TV. I do very simple knitting while reading, but even then I find myself drifting towards one or the other task. And I cannot even imagine that it is physically possible to do more than two things at once. Even when I knit while watching TV, I find that my focus inevitably ends up either on my knitting or on the TV program.

So I wonder - do people really do more than two things simultaneously? If not, what is considered multi-tasking? And the bigger question - why is multi-tasking so valued in our culture?

I think we need to slow down. Focus on one thing at a time and do that thing well.

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