Single-tasking for the Win!

Multitasking with technology
One of my favourite non-fiction books is titled Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by developmental molecular biologist John Medina. In his chapter on Attention, he blatantly points out that “Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth…we are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously” (p. 84-85). He goes on to say that “The brain is a sequential processor, unable to pay attention to two things at the same time. Businesses and schools praise multitasking, but research clearly shows that it reduces productivity and increases mistakes”. You can read more about his ideas in his blog post found here. Our professor Alec asked us to watch this video called Single-tasking is the New Multi-tasking and discuss whether the Internet is really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions and whether the Internet has created a world of ‘multi-taskers’ who don’t accomplish as much as they could have without it? This video provides information that relates directly to the ideas that John Medina shares. The speaker likens open tabs on your computer to tabs as a metaphor for different elements in life suggesting that we are not good at multi-tasking online or offline. The difficult part is that society (including schools and workplaces) position multi-tasking as an optimal skill to have. We are constantly bombarded with messages from society and in the media about the value of multi-tasking. This week, presenters Amy, Amy, Kyle and Colette discussed productivity suites and presentation tools. A productivity suite “is a group of programs for your computer that includes a word processor, a spreadsheet creator and a presentation creator accessible by launching one main application. The suite enables you to share data among the three programs as well as download and use templates from online template providers” (Source). They also shared this video to compare two of the most popular productivity suites Microsoft Office and Google Suites. One of the groups’ recommended readings argued that
“Today, we often take for granted that digital versions of these once-revolutionary technologies come bundled in a single software package many of us use every day. In offices around the world, you’ll find professionals hard at work using the modern productivity suite, which can include word-processing, email, spreadsheet, and presentation software, as well as instant messaging and file-sharing apps. And these powerful office tools empower many millions of office workers to get their jobs done” (Source)
What I find so interesting is that while media/society is pushing for multitasking as an important skill, the research shows that multitasking is ultimately unproductive. Tools like that ones presented this evening (Microsoft Office, Google Suites, etc.) have become an enabler for people to multitask while simultaneously creating a significant distraction. Though as Melanie points out, our reliance on this kind of technology is indisputable. I know that I personally become overwhelmed especially during ed tech courses because I always have so many tabs open. It sometimes becomes difficult to organize my thoughts because I am clicking through tabs or one link leads me to another and down the rabbit hole I go. I would not be able to create my blog posts for this class without the use of technology and presentation tools but I wonder how much time I could save if I only have one tab to focus on! This same problem spills over into many other areas of life including in my workplace and from experiences being a student in the past decade. Technology has created so many possibilities but also so many distractions!
Designer Paolo Cardini questions the efficiency of our multitasking world and makes the case for — gasp — “monotasking (Source)

3 thoughts on “Single-tasking for the Win!

  1. This is a solid post, Brooke. I love the inclusion of Medina’s work, and oddly, I just remembered that I have his 12 rules stuff on audio cassette. Weird.

    As I’ve alerted others, also check out Linda Stone’s work on Continous Partial Attention – the idea that we are never really fully paying attention to anything and we are simply just always task-switching. This, as Medina’s work supports, leads to some real problems. Stone takes this even further.

    Thanks again for the solid post here – quality writing.

  2. Pingback: I’ll have that project completed by…. – Mistagram

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