Thursday, July 8, 2010

Multi-tasking: A Hot Mess

In the times when I have actually considered working for someone else, I regularly saw job postings seeking those who can multitask. Since I have been doing homework and watching television, texting and having face-to-face conversations, sending e-mails and sitting in lectures for some time now, I felt I matched that description quite nicely.

Then I read William Deresiewicz’s SOLITUDE AND LEADERSHIP, a talk delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009. A great read - one part stood out (hence the purpose of this blog). He shared about research done at Stanford University regarding multitasking, and how “people do not multitask effectively… the more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself.”

Until I read that, I’d say I was the Queen of Multitasking. Always working on more than one project at a time, completing various unrelated tasks in a day. But the more I considered it, the more I realized that I am always and only doing one thing at a time. When talking with a friend and a text comes to my phone, the moment I entertain my Blackberry screen, I have momentarily taken attention away from the conversation I was having with the friend. Though I’d like to say, “No, really, I AM listening,” the truth is, albeit brief, I wasn’t listening. Or when I’m in a conversation and the television is on; in intervals, I go in and out of the dialogue to see what I was missing on the tube.

The issue is even more intense when looking at all the things I say yes to. I’ll let my diagram do the illustrating. And you tell me, with the same 24 hours as you have in a day, am I really making a whole lot of progress?...