Confessions of a former multitasker


As I continued my journey into simplicity yesterday,  I ran across an article in Real Simple Magazine from September.  It was about the evils of  multitasking.  Hecky Darn, I always thought it was an attribute!

As I read the article, I was eating tuna salad, writing a thank you note, watching the news and intermittently talking on the telephone. I paused to sing along with an advertising jingle (for Wal-Mart) entitled “Do your ears hang low.”

more multitasking

Ironically, the article was entitled “Stop the Madness” and it described how multitasking has become a life and death problem.

“The culture of distraction is rewiring our brains, making us less happy, less able to connect with people and form a conscience.”   Say what?  So I have no conscience?, I thought indignantly.

The author, A. J. Jacobs, claims that as we toggle between one task and another – first the phone, then the e-mail, then vacuuming the living room with the dust rag in my teeth, then back to e-mail – each switch costs us a few milliseconds in start-up cost.

That got my attention – what with me being a life-long multitasker and all.  Proud of it even.  So I embarked on a new campaign I’m calling it “Operation Unitask.” I made a personal pledge to nix the multitasking if that’s possible at this late date (fifty something).  I’ll even try to stick with one task longer than my typical 60 seconds.

I wrote on my hand in black magic marker “Focus on one thing at a time,” then hopped on the computer to record my earth shattering discovery.  The phone rang, distracting me from my epiphany.  I continued to concentrate on my writing while a friend began to list all the exciting things we could do this weekend.

“Uh, huh,” I responded absently as she discussed the Dolcimer Fair at Tishamingo State Park.

“Hold on,” I said.  “Let me call you back in 30 minutes while I have my calendar in front of me.”  I finished writing this blurb and got back with her, finally able to give her my complete attention.  I gave myself a big pat on the back.

So I will hunker down and do my best to unitask today, but 1500 things are colliding in my brain trying to be first in line.

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