Welcome to my blog, aka my place to comment and reflect on things I find inspiring, amusing, irritating, or baffling. When I was young, my Stanford PhD, former physics professor, software engineer father used to help me with my math homework, and I, being mentally deficient in all things math, could never quite get it. He would constantly say to me, "Jill, it's not rocket science." (Did I mention the PhD was in Aeronautics and Astronautics??) So I thought it would be an appropriate title for this blog because everything I write about is, indeed, not rocket science.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Multi-tasking Myth

I read an article that there's no such thing as multi-tasking because our brains can only focus on one task at a time, and what we're actually doing is serial tasking - "shifting from one task to another to another in rapid succession." You can physically be doing two or more things at once - listening to the TV in the background while reading the newspaper or talking on the phone while browsing the internet, but really, your brain can only completely focus on one of these things. This is absolutely true. If I'm listening to talk radio while reading, I can either pay full attention to the radio and not really comprehend what I'm reading, or focus on reading and not really grasp what I'm hearing. Or, if I'm talking on the phone while browsing the internet, I sometimes miss what the person said because my mind is not fully committed to the conversation. I was always amazed by people who could study or do homework in front of the TV. I was never one of these people, simply because I couldn't focus on my homework and would inevitably end up watching the TV. I would bet that many people who said they could study in front of the TV didn't accomplish much studying, either. 

We brag about our multi-tasking capabilities all the time - we list it as a skill on our resumes, and it is often listed as a requirement in job postings. Moms in particular are touted as the queens of multi-tasking - caring for their children, doing laundry, making dinner, and updating Facebook - all at the same time! Phew! But they are actually only doing one of these things completely. I don't mean this as a criticism, I just think it's impossible to fully commit to more than one task at a time. Everything else is done half-assed.

We love the word multi-tasking because it conveys to others that we are juggling life's many balls simultaneously, and doing so successfully. It means, I have so damn much to do and am so busy that I can't possibly do only one thing at a time! And by telling everyone that we're the ultimate multi-tasker, we are implying that we're kicking life's ass! We rule! Except, when was the last time we had a quiet 5 minutes without a phone in our hand, a computer in front of our face, or a child tugging at our pant leg? Exactly. Maybe being a superb multi-tasker isn't something to brag about. Maybe it just means that we're so busy that we can't even find the time to dedicate ourselves to just one thing. Single-tasking might be something to brag about - intimating a better life balance, perhaps? I think I'll put on my resume that I'm an excellent single-tasker, then direct potential employers to this post. That wouldn't be obnoxious at all. 

1 comment:

  1. What about nothing-tasking? Is that a valuable skill? Cause I'm pretty good at that.

    FYI, I love this: "we're kicking life's ass!"