Viewpoint: Overcoming multitaskingIt seems that, like so many of us today, I have learned to do more than one thing at a time. They call this multitasking and I have often thought of myself as a “champion multitasker.” But according to recent research, I may have been fooling myself.
By: Kate Soucheray, Columnist, Woodbury Bulletin
It seems that, like so many of us today, I have learned to do more than one thing at a time. They call this multtasking and I have often thought of myself as a “champion multitasker.” But according to recent research, I may have been fooling myself.
Current studies are showing that people who multitask actually do not do things as well as they thought they did. Rather, everything, it seems, may be mediocre at best, and pretty bad, at worst.
For example, when I read the articles earlier in the summer about driving and talking on the phone, I guess I was not surprised that it is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver on the phone, the research indicated, was as distracted and unaware as the driver who was driving while intoxicated.
After I read the articles, I decided to go without my cell phone when I was behind the wheel. Well, let me tell you, this has certainly changed my lifestyle! I have found in the past month, while conducting this experiment, I have to make time to contact the important people in my life when I am at rest.
Whether it is someone with whom I have business, a coffee date, or even one of our kids or my husband, I have made those calls from a place of rest rather than on the road. And I would say this change has made a difference in how calm I am at the moment of the call and when I am driving. You see, I am paying attention to the call when I am calling and I am paying attention to the road when I am driving.
This notion of multitasking, the recent research has shown, actually makes us less competent at all of the tasks we are undertaking. The participants in the recent study were under the false impression that they were as proficient and capable when they were attempting to complete several tasks at once as when the tasks received their full attention, one task at a time.
It seems that these studies are setting before us a mirror and inviting us to peer deeply into it and discover the truth it holds. They are encouraging us to examine our lives and see how we live our lives on the fast track.
If we sincerely want to change, maybe making a change to step out of the multi-tasking is done one small step at a time. The first step, it seems, would be to choose an area of our lives in which we multitask. We would take a look at that area and think about how we could slow down and do one task at a time.
What a novel idea - to engage fully in the activity as we are doing it. Many of us would probably finish our day wondering what we had accomplished in the 24 hours we just lived. We have been so conditioned to be busy, that to make the choice to un-busy ourselves may seem foreign. We may feel like we are in such strange territory that we want to race back to the busy lifestyle, simply because we understand it.
But give the less complicated, slower-paced way of life a chance to grow on you before you disregard this suggestion. If you want to give this a try, begin by thinking of one area of your life you would be willing to step back from multitasking. Then, make the commitment to give this experiment a bit of time, perhaps a month or two. Periodically during that time, check in with yourself on how rushed and harried you feel. Ask others if they notice a difference in you and your patience level.
This practice of multitasking must not be all that it is made out to be or scientists would not have spent a significant amount of time and money determining how damaging it really is for us. It seems like they are trying to tell us something. Perhaps the good old days, when things were simpler and less stressful, weren’t so primitive, after all.
Kate Soucheray is a Woodbury resident