A Perspective on Multi-Tasking

A short article about multitasking in our newspaper yesterday morning by columnist Harvey Schachter got me thinking. (Actually, Harvey was referencing a blogpost he saw on Tools for Thought, and although I didn’t locate the exact reference, I found this blog by Andre Kibbe worth checking out.

Anyway, about multi-tasking.  I used to pride myself on my ability to multi-task – read several books at once, carry out numerous projects at work, answer questions of my staff or colleagues when I was a manager, or cook dinner, listen to the radio, answer questions from the kids, and talk to a good friend on the phone at the same time. 

However, what I called multi-tasking then or now, is practically boring compared to what young people appear to be able to do all at the same time – homework with the tv on, ipod blaring, texting, doodling, and who knows what else? 

And you know what?  When I am doing two or more things at once, how well am I doing them?  Not well.  Am I burning the dinner? Probably.  Am I really listening to my friend? I mean really listening.  The truth is no, I’m not.  Listening means giving someone your full attention. How can I be doing that when I am doing something else?

I do admire my husband’s ability to focus on one task at a time – even though I do pretend to be frustrated when I ask a question and response is the, by now, predictable “don’t bother me, I’m reading the paper”, or ‘I’m a sequential processor, and I’ll get to that when I finish this.” Guess what.  He is a person who successfully does one thing at a time and does it well. 

How well do I do what I’m doing when I’m doing too much at once? 

How effective could I be if I just focussed on the task at hand? Then the next one, and the next one.

What about you?  Are you a ‘sequential processor’  or a ‘do-it-all-at-the-same-time’ type like me.  What works for you?  What could work better?

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