The topic of multitasking is something that comes up in every aspect of life whether you’re at home or at work or at with friends. Everyone is trying to do five things at once to get everything done: answering the phone while writing an email while signing papers, or cooking dinner while washing some dishes while playing with the kids, or having a drink with your friend while texting another friend while looking at football scores on the flat screen tv. It’s just part of life that we try to focus our attention on more things at once, or we don’t feel we’re being efficient or using our time wisely.
As someone in our group discussion during class last night mentioned, multitasking is necessary to survive especially in this digital age, however, it does not necessarily mean that we are all good at it. Like any other skill, multitasking is something that must be learned and practiced over time, but I feel no matter how much someone says they can multitask or thinks they can do it, chances are the jobs they complete are not done with the best quality. As Rhengold states, switching tasks and shifting your attention comes at a “mental cost.” Sure, anyone can switch tasks to get more things done, but the quality of work in each task is probably not near what it would be if we only focused on that one task without worrying about anything else. Unfortunately, many of us are not programmed to just do one thing or just have so many things to get done we need to take on as much as we can at once.
With mobile technology now, more so we have the urge to talk on the phone, text a friend, or check our email while walking to the car. We can’t help ourselves to answer the phone or check a received text while driving even though we may realize that is could be dangerous to be doing both at the same time. This shift of awareness from task to task can have consequences, such as accidents. There are even unconscious consequences we may not realize like missed time with your kids. I admit I have been guilty of this sometimes too, such as trying to multitask in writing or checking emails on my phone while taking my kids to the park; I may end up spending more time on the phone than actually playing with my kids which defeats the purpose of spending time with them, and Rheingold also mentions this being a distraction.
One really funny example I would like to share is about my wife and how she always boasts she’s a great multitasker, but I have caught her a few times having that mental lapse of juggling too many things at once. One instance was she was talking on the phone, while trying to edit a paper, while getting the rice ready to cook. Well, her talk on the phone went fine and she got some of the edits on her paper done, but she completely forgot to put water in the rice before cooking it! So we just ended up with a bowl of hot toasted rice grains! (Although, I have to admit she may be right on the multitasking to some regard since she was able to earn her Phd and a 2nd Masters degree at the same time!)
Rheingold mentions that we all need to pay attention to paying attention, and I really believe that. If you actually take a moment and focus or think about the task or tasks you are doing, it really can heighten your awareness of what you are doing as well as the environment around you. I think sometimes we get so caught up in routine things or doing so many things at once that our actual train of thought wanders. A great example i heard for someone before is to pay attention as you drive home, because most times people just zone out and don’t even realize what they are passing or seeing as they drive, but if you actually focus on the drive home you may notice some things you never even realized were there before.
These two images on multitasking below I thought were really funny, because in essence they are so true!