Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Pitfalls of Multitasking

Unlike yesterday when my computer was dead, and I had no choice but to take analog, or pen and paper notes both in the margins and in my notebook, today I chose to work on my computer. I started out reading my notes from yesterday, and began to think about multitasking. Once again Larry Rosen in iDisorder has interesting information claiming, “Research is fairly clear that performing one task at a time is much better than performing multiple tasks simultaneously (which is really just rapid task switching” (207). Today, I was able to open multiple windows as I read my notes to check on the actual articles mentioned in iDisorder. Though Rosen spoke about students when he said, “students had more windows open on their computer lost more focus on their studying,” I chose to apply it to myself.

With my iPhone facedown on the table next to me at Starbucks, I implemented the Tech Break 15 minute rule. After reading Rosen’s findings about multi-tasking, I pondered the best way to conduct my research this morning. Since my topic was multi-tasking, I decided to skim the article, “The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment,” a study conducted by four different professors. They introduce the study with the following statement, “Multitasking is a widespread phenomenon in today’s information-saturated world, and there is considerable concern about its negative consequences for both personal health and effectiveness.” After skimming I returned to the beginning and read the entire article on line. When I came upon an expert, a study, or a reference I wanted to check out, I noted the page, but I continued to read, re-skimming information not pertinent to my inquiry today.

At one point, when the reading wasn’t as applicable to my focus, I felt the urge to check my phone. Unsure of how long I’d been reading, I picked it up to learn it had been 25 minutes. I then spent 5 minutes answering a text, checking my emails, and looking at the weather. Why do I look at the weather? It may be that I grew up with a mother who constantly mentioned the weather. Now when she calls me, from California, the first thing she frequently asks is, “How is the weather?” Why do we do this? We can’t do anything about the weather, but I suppose it gives us something to look forward to if the forecast is sunnier and warmer than the current day, and something to prepare for if a day of wintry mix is in our future. But then again, isn’t the goal of mindfulness to live in the present moment, not concerned with the past or the future weather?

I finished reading the article before heading to yoga with no media distractions, but I do choose to work at Starbucks some mornings because it is a social place where I see friends and acquaintances. I would say these are pleasant distractions for if I needed 100% focus, I would work at Wheelhouse in a conference room.

A suggestion to any readers, pay attention to your multitasking during the day. It can be an eye opening experience, one where you may realize that your very observation is a form of mindfulness.

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