The Multitasking Slide

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I was recently reading some of my co-bloggers articles right here on our site, and ran across the one by Melissa Kennedy called “Multitasking Can Make You Feel Better” in which she discusses the effects of multitasking on our work and feelings. This article really made me stop and take a look at myself, and I saw clearly that I was exactly like what the article discussed. She stated:


There have been a number of studies that suggest that when we multi-task, we lower our performance across the board and end up taking longer to accomplish each task than it would have taken if we weren't interrupted.


… After tracking the behavior of people who report frequent multi-tasking, they've found that in spite of the productivity hit and increased stress levels, people actually get an emotional boost. This means that even though they aren't getting more accomplished, they feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.


Whenever I go to watch TV or a movie with the family, I will 8-out-of-10 times have the laptop on my lap doing something work or pleasure related. I figure as long as I am listening to the dialog, and that if I  look up during quiet and action scenes, that I am following the show well enough and still getting something more productive done. For me, if I am not feeling like I am being productive, I feel like I am wasting time when there is so much to do. So in the end, I do see how there is this emotional feeling of accomplishment.


I am back. See - just now (though you didn’t notice) while I was in mid thought and writing this article, an email came in and I stopped to go answer it. As Melissa’s article mentioned, when we constantly slide around in our multi-tasking world, we seem to get a lot done, but everything we do gets slowed down as we take attention from one job to another to another and back to the first. If I had not stopped to go read and send a detailed response to that email, I may have gotten done writing this post already. Plus, when I went away and came back, I was forced to stop and regain my train of thought, as well as read the last line or two of my own works to get back on track.


How many times do we have to “get back on track” after a slight multi-tasking detour? Are we constantly stopping to think “now where was I on this” – because if so, that is further proof that we are slowing ourselves down.


I have fallen prey to the mindset that since we have the ability to receive and respond to things on the go that I need to respond and deal with things immediately as they come in. This attitude on my part makes me likewise expect others to do the same. So when I do not get an almost immediate response to an email or text, it might make me a bit frustrated. I have all of my emails, social media connections, etc.  connected to my phone, so I can receive notifications instantaneously. “If I do, why doesn’t everyone else? – why have they not responded to me yet, it has been 60 seconds – come on!”


So while we have the technology to do things more quickly, it can be a source of stress as we wait or as we constantly get interrupted from doing things we need or desire to be doing. I have friends who are not “up to speed” on this technology, and it can frustrate me that they are hard to reach, slow to respond, and just basically disconnected. Now, after stopping to take a hard look at it myself, I believe they are probably better off than those of us like myself, who are sliding all over the multi-tasking landscape.


Now, I know many jobs require multi-tasking skills, and there is no way to eliminate those. In clerical and administrative positions, multi-tasking can be a required skill. Phones must be answered when they ring, people need dealt with when they appear, schedules need adjusted on the fly, and many things are happening at the same time. However when it comes to normal daily functions and things that are less in-the-moment, it is important that we prioritize and work accordingly – one task at a time. We need to break the cycle of sliding around the circle of tasks doing a bit on each here and there, and focus on knocking them out one at a time. We will probably find that we waste less time and get things done more quickly in the long run. I know I am going to try to make the change.


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  • Sonali
    As someone who is in 3 oninle classes I can definately say it takes a lot of self discipline for me not to widle away my time puttering around on various fluff oriented things while watching a lecture.The good. My schedule is fluid so if I need to spend a day running errands I can. The bad. The day is fluid so I have to sit on myself and shut down all fun applications to focus. No IMs no Twitter, Facebook ect ect. The other downside? When I do focus I loose hours of time to the oninle class. I'll answer 12 questions in 3 classes look up its odark ugly and realize  Well crud I did ALL my homework for the week in 2 days. I showed up to office hours and the professor was,  You've done everything for the next 2 weeks you're good.  This week is a quasi break because all the professors are at some IRLS conference on digital technologies. Which is why I'm writing here. But yes the mutitasking lure is strong
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