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The Art Of Multitasking… Or Not?

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In this Information Age, the term “multitasking” has become a household term. Computers are really good at multitasking. With the advent of technology, tiny processors are able to do multiple tasks at any given time.

As a result, humans are also encouraged to multitask, both at work and at home.

Yes, there have been many claims that women are much better “multitaskers” than men. I wouldn’t want to argue with that. However, let’s stop for a minute and take a few steps back.

Are humans supposed to be multitasking in the first place? Or are we better off focusing on one task at a time? Let’s examine this together.

Let’s recall the last time when you were swarmed with a hundred tasks to be completed within a short time. I recently went through this. Just before the long holiday season, I had to settle a number of pending items.

I had to multitask, but in the end, I couldn’t actually focus and actually failed on some of the tasks. I even lost my car keys when rushing to an appointment.

Can We Multitask?

Have you tried to have a decent conversation on the phone while trying to draft an important email? Or tried to listen to important news on the television while talking to your children? Would you succeed in getting both done without any errors in between? Not likely, for most people.

In fact, research has been conducted to understand why this happens. Studies have shown that even when very simple tasks are involved, people find it difficult to perform them at the same time. This is especially so when the tasks involve decision-making.

There were also other studies done to determine the effects of multitasking on children. Children today are surrounded with technology. They tend to surf the Internet, listen to music, use Facebook and text message, sometimes all at the same time!

In an article published in 2012 in Computers & Education, Reynol Junco and Shelia Cotton found that students who multitask will have more problems with their academic performance. In particular, they found that using Facebook and text messaging while studying have the most negative effect on the students’ grades.

Single Task or Multitask

It’s not likely that we can focus on doing two things at once. Our brain is not like a computer chip. However, given our busy schedule, we are sometimes forced to do many things at one time.

How many times have we “talked” to our children while watching television?

What about the time when we “listened” to our spouse while browsing Twitter, Facebook or checking emails?

How would we feel if our boss was reading the newspaper while we were narrating important information to him/her?

We need to be aware that it’s always better to do a single task at a time, especially when it comes to relationships. It’s not worth trying to get more things done at the risk of alienating our loved ones.

It’s much better to stop whatever we are doing when our children come running to us.

Give them the utmost attention and forget about everything else. Similarly, turn off the television and other gadgets when having a family dinner. Give it a try and you’ll be surprised at how effective this action is.

Recently, I saw a very interesting print on a T-shirt. It was a picture depicting the theory of human evolution. It showed an ape transforming into a modern human. But it didn’t stop there. The human was shown to transform into robots!

It was meant to be a joke and I thought it was funny. I know several people who already are fast turning into “robots”.

Just visit any service counters either by private or government organisations, and you may find some workers there performing their tasks robotically. They don’t smile nor offer any empathy towards your problem.

I hope we are not turning into a robotic society where there is no emotion, feeling and soul in our lives. That would be a tragedy. But if we continue to let our “busyness” to take over, that day may come sooner than we think.

Focus or Fail

So, let’s start focusing on things that really matter in life. Spend time with family before they leave us. Treat spouses with utmost respect. The list is long, but only we can put our family at the top of the priority list.

I lost my car keys because I failed to focus on one task at a time in my quest to multitask. Looking back, I wish I had taken the time and not rushed to get things done.

It could have been a worse tragedy. Fortunately, it also reminded me of a valuable life lesson; that it’s always better to focus on one thing at a time. With that, let’s pledge to focus on our family, one child at a time!


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