Tag Archives: multitasking

My new mantra is…

My husband, Julio Naudin, is good at doing one thing at a time. Here he is placing the final stone on a small cairn in Northern California.
My husband, Julio Naudin, is good at doing one thing at a time. Here he is placing the final stone on a small cairn in Northern California.

Four simple syllables give me the heebie jeebies.
I used to believe the same four syllables were wonderful. I used to believe they represented something I wanted to be doing as much as possible. I used to believe they embodied the utmost of productivity.
I now know better.
I was wrong.
The four simple syllables are not the be all, but after years of experimentation with them, I realize they could be my undoing.
The four syllables are mul-ti-task-ing.
Multitasking is not my friend. For that matter, it’s not your friend either.
I came to this decision on my own, but as it turns out, this isn’t just my opinion. Science backs me up — by doing less, we do more.
Plus, it’s not good for our brains. Chronic multitaskers have a “failure to filter,” according to research by Stanford University. And that filter failure doesn’t allow them to distinguish between the information that’s important and the information that isn’t.
I had missed that newsflash when it came out a few years back. I came to my anti-multitasking stance based on observation and personal experience.
For example, I’ve had a lot of conversations recently with a young mother who works part-time from home. She has a toddler. Until recently, she spent most of her time trying to watch the toddler and get work done in spurts when the child was occupied.
This is what we do now, isn’t it? We check emails when we’re closing the car door and walking in the building. We used to just walk in the building. We catch up with loved ones on the phone while we’re watering the plants. We used to just water the plants. We go walking or running and listen to a book on audio. We used to just walk or run.
The whole thing seems to work, but maybe it’s not working as well as we think. Science says that our brains just aren’t wired to take in more than one message at a time.
The young mother says she was constantly frustrated with her young daughter and the little girl whined a lot. Maybe that was because she never had her mother’s full attention. The lines of our lives have been so blurred. Most of us are never fully at work or off work. That constantly on with constant access isn’t working as well as we think it is.
Let me say that I’m as guilty as any. As I tried to write this column, my 18-year-daughter came up and wanted to chat. In case you’re keeping score at home, the 18-year-old daughter wanting to sit and chat doesn’t happen often. She sat beside me as I sat with my computer open. She just wanted to talk. I felt like I had to write and finish this column.
The irony was not lost on me.
I ended up closing the computer and pushing it away. Had I been writing about any other topic, I’m not sure I would have taken my own advice.
But the truth is, how many more times is my girl, while she’s living at home, going to want to sit and talk to me about the new choreography for their Spirit Week dance at school? How many more times is she going to want to look at information on colleges and have a rational conversation about where she should go?
I missed my deadline on this column — and maybe I don’t have all the words just right, but I did have a lovely, distraction-free conversation with my daughter tonight.
“One thing at a time” is my new mantra.

LSS: No instant replays

The age of multitasking and the technology that makes much of it possible offers certain gains to society.

And, the age of multitasking and the technology that makes much of it possible offers certain losses to society.

Case in point: I’ve been a major fan of digital video recorders since my first TiVo back in 1999. The technology changed my life, allowing me to watch what television I chose to watch exactly when I chose to watch it.

Then and now, my favorite button on the digital video recorder remote control was and is the instant replay button. Maybe something is so good you want to hear or see it again. Sometimes, I want to be certain the people I’m with heard it loud and clear. Either way, that single button has alleviated much confusion and concern in my life — not to mention that it’s settled a few arguments, as well.

However, there’s a flip side. The flip side with the constant permission and capability to “go-back eight seconds and hear it again” when watching television is that I’ve noticed oftentimes I don’t listen nearly as closely as I once did. Why? Because I can always hit that little button and have a video version of a do-over. Yes, it works fine for television, but you see where this is headed, don’t you?

I first noticed the problem in my car listening to the radio. Occasionally, when I miss a phrase, my gut reaction is to hit the “go-back” button and hear it again.

Radio has no go-back button.

Neither does the rest of the world. Real life simply doesn’t offer instant replays.

While technology has given us many gifts, it’s also robbing us of some of the biggest rewards of a sophisticated society. If we allow technology or anything else to diminish accurate and active listening, I’m not sure how far we’ve come.

It’s the old two ears/one mouth axiom. According to nature, we should listen twice as much as we talk. The benefits of becoming better listeners are ample and help us to:

» Earn respect from others. Ye olde “You can’t get respect until you give it.”

» Learn more. You’ll be amazed at all you can pick up — not only from the sheer amount of information you hear, but also in how it sounds. If you start listening for nuances in the way people speak, including their tone, rhythm and volume — all those vocal characteristics generally have a specific meaning attached. Listening helps decode patterns and subtexts of what people are saying — or not saying.

» Make better decisions. Gathering information from different sources not only makes us better people, but it leads to having better lives built on better choices.

» Build better relationships. If you’re having problems getting along with folks, make a conscious effort to really listen to what they’re saying. You’ll pick up some cues on what to do to make things better. It’s up to you in what to do with that information.

» Become more creative. By listening to more, you naturally become more open to more ideas.