Slow Down, Brave Multitasker, and Don’t Read This in Traffic – New York Times

One of the many things that are done in hopes of increasing productivity is “multi-task.” The term is filled with meanings depending on the person. For some, listening to music while doing work is quite helpful, for example. Others may consider it a feat of accomplishment or skill.

The article linked above describes the detriments associated with multi-tasking. It amazes me that research is needed to show what can be plainly felt. When a person concentrates wholly upon a task, it creates a different sense of absorption in that task. There is a different level of thought that goes into that project.

Note, for example, a child who is playing in total focus. That is the process of learning at work. It is a process by which he or she is learning how to interact with the environment.

The natural focus that we once had as children can be lost in the demands of the day-to-day. Technology, though certainly with its perks, is a fiend in terms of interruption. Some computer setups, for example, are particularly bad in terms of asking permission for updates and patches, reminding of e-mail, and instant messaging. Meanwhile, there are phone calls on several lines – cell and land, faxes, etc. Family, work, social, and Internet lives all jostle about demanding time and attention. Rather than a healthy mix, it can be a cacophony without focus.

I don’t think that multi-tasking is a “skill” that society has naturally been trying to attain. I think it is more often the by-product of the inundating calls to our attention by the exponentially growing technological leaps of the day.

Attention is a skill. Focus is a skill. Both are entirely human. In turning to technology for everything, we often forget that there are skills that are unique to the self. When these abilities fade in time like muscles without exercise one must turn to practice and an understanding of self.

Actively ask,

  • What is it that regularly takes my attention away?
  • How can I reduce those distractions?
  • What is the task at hand?
  • Have I pushed it as far as scheduled or as far as it can go?
  • Why or why not?
  • Why is this piece of candy over here sitting uneaten? (candy, mmmm… Well, I guess I could take the candy dish and place it out of sight. Good idea. Back to the blog post.)

Reducing distractions and understanding the climate and triggers of the mind is a major task in uni-tasking. (Bleh, I hope that doesn’t become a buzz word. But, if it does I reserve t-shirt rights. 🙂 )

Streamlining a computer to only prompt at a certain time of day, scheduling readings of email, etc. can all work towards an approach that feels as energizing and relaxing as cleaning out a long over due room.