We are becoming a culture of bits and bytes. In this world of multitasking gone mad, I find that I get distracted way too easily these days! Or, to be more precise, I distract myself. I will be working on something at the office, then all of a sudden, I will have a thought that I must stop that for a minute and do this other thing. I do it at home, too. I’m cleaning the kitchen, remember that I need to change the wash, then stop midway through that to empty the trash, and so on, never quite getting back to the original task. Some would call it multitasking, but I know it is not very productive for me. But still, I cannot seem to stop this behavior.
What we are really doing, they say, is switching tasks, not multitasking. That sums it up very well for me, as I never feel like I handle either of the tasks I am trying to do well. I will get engrossed in one, ignoring the other, probably retaining less in the process. Researchers tell us that we lose productivity when we multitask – by as much as 40%, according to Paul Atchley, Associate Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kansas. Russell Poldrack of the University of California says that multitasking affects learning and memory, too.
That certainly has been my experience. It takes about 15 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration we had when we switched to that other task. I keep trying to develop the discipline – or re-develop, actually – to stay focused long enough to finish the task at hand.
The younger generations are doing this multitasking behavior all the time, responding to a variety of media – internet, TV, email, text messaging, etc. – constantly. Chrisine Rosen of The New Atlantic concludes, “with crumbs of attention rationed out among many competing tasks, their culture may gain in information, but it will surely weaken in wisdom.”
Perhaps this should be one of my new year’s resolutions.
Focus, focus, focus!