“I’m a multi-tasker” she says, “I’m constantly doing 2 or 3 things at once.”
I just finished watching an interesting program from PBS’s Frontline called Digital Nation. There was a lot of really interesting parts, but the one that really stuck with me was when they were talking to a handful of MIT students who were all totally convinced that they were expert multitaskers who could fully consume multiple streams at once without significant data drop.
I’m not a true digital native, but I’ve assimilated. One thing I know for sure. There’s no such thing as multitasking. Ok, there is low level multi-tasking. I can mow the lawn while listening to my iPod.
The kind of multitasking people claim to do is just BS. You can’t talk on the phone at the same time you’re typing an email and pay attention to both activities because both use the same part of the brain. Have you ever “zoned out” and missed your exit while driving on the highway? If you could really multi-task, that would never happen.
About a year ago, I decided to check my email a lot less often. The world is still on it’s axis and I now can focus for at least a couple hours at a time. Switching between email, twitter, Facebook, data gathering, report writing, blog posting and strategic thinking should take 3 days, but we’re now convinced all that can fit into a 45 minute lunch break.
Take a minute and think back to the last really productive stretch you had. During the most productive part of that stretch, were you focused on one thing or were you multitasking?
I understand that multitasking is here to stay. I walk and txt at the same time, I check my email when I’m waiting sitting at a red light. But when I have to do real work, it requires focus. It did 20 years ago, and it will 20 years from now.
So the question now is, how do you focus in a society that tells you multitasking is the answer?