Friday, August 22, 2008

Multitasking

Read this somewhat long ramble in The Atlantic Monthly by Walter Kirn on why multi-tasking is not for humans and will almost always result in multi-quitting. He makes some good points :

This is the great irony of multitasking—that its overall goal, getting more done in less time, turns out to be chimerical. In reality, multitasking slows our thinking. It forces us to chop competing tasks into pieces, set them in different piles, then hunt for the pile we’re interested in, pick up its pieces, review the rules for putting the pieces back together, and then attempt to do so, often quite awkwardly. (Fact, and one more reason the bubble will pop: A brain attempting to perform two tasks simultaneously will, because of all the back-and-forth stress, exhibit a substantial lag in information processing.)

A lot of job descriptions routine list the "ability to multi-task" as a desirable if not necessary trait to be successful in that role in "a fast-paced environment" where an individual will be expected "work with limited direction or supervision". When you subtract the business-ese from all that what you are left with is a very badly managed organization where chaos, mayhem and fire-fighting constitute business as usual.

In order to survive in such an unhealthy atmosphere you will need to be constantly juggling conflicting priorities and somehow to reach an unmarked goal that will continue to morph with time. Maybe if everyone would focus on one thing at a time and quit multi-tasking, things may actually change for the better.

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