The "M" Word: _ _ _ _ _tasking
The following may be offensive to some. OK, probably not. I know I’m not normal, but I, in jest, propose the idea of making multitasking a profane word. Now for all of you folks that multitask and are ready to argue, I want you to be aware that there is a good bit of scientific evidence that says the human brain is not built for multitasking. The term is a misnomer.
Multitasking as a word goes back to the 1960’s, but really gained popularity as computerization became common. When I first heard the concept, I bought into it a little bit. It seemed like a positive and efficient concept. Our culture really embraces progress and outdating things. Anything that makes things go faster is considered good and progressive. Growing up, it was easy to see people multitasking in school. Sitting in the office, you’d see the school secretary answering the phone, comforting a distraught student, getting orders from the boss, listening to a school employee vent, and signing for a delivery. Yes, they could do all of that and keep everything straight. So, in some cases, we do have evidence of positive multitasking.
Somewhere along the line, I fear we have run amuck with the term. Some people buy into the belief that they are a gifted multitasker– able to give many projects a portion of their focus. For a while it seemed harmless. Then, one day, the cell phone was invented. People began to believe that without their cell phone their heart might stop beating. So, if I am a multitasking person, I can use my phone safely and efficiently while doing all things– including driving. This has become a problem. I have argued with students who truly believe they can safely text and drive– even when all of the studies say you can’t. Some even believe others can’t text and drive, but they are the chosen ones who actually can. Oh, by the way, texting and driving is now illegal in Iowa. Ride with me and I will show you numerous lawbreakers. It’s not just young people.
Texting while driving is just one of the negative examples of multitasking. Why is it so hard for our culture to focus on one thing at a time, and truly give it your all in that moment? After all these years, I am back to my old school ways. Prepare, be organized, make a list of things to do, prioritize the list. Then do 1 thing at a time, do it well to completion then move on. I fear that multitasking may lead to doing multiple tasks at a lower level of proficiency than is acceptable. Some tasks like driving take our full attention. “Take a Think About That.” (TATAT)