Recently I read an article in the Edmonton Journal with the following headline: ?Shattering the myth of multitasking.? This is not a total surprise.
I always prided myself on being one of those people who could multi-task. It seemed like an efficient way to accomplish more in an increasingly crazy busy world. My favourite thing was reading while watching TV. Maybe that explains why I can be an hour into a movie before I realize I’ve seen it before! Or why I have to read and reread certain passages to get them to stick. In my heart I knew I wasn’t doing justice to either activity but like so many I was sucked into the belief that I could make it work. And if I didn’t I was obviously not trying hard enough.
Goodness knows I had read enough over the years (probably while watching TV) about mindfulness to realize that multi-tasking flies in the face of that concept. Author Barbara De Angelis said, ?Only when your consciousness is totally focused on the moment you are in can you receive whatever gift, lesson, or delight that moment has to offer.? It is a principal belief in Buddhism. It is an integral part of meditation.
The closest I’ve come lately to total mindfulness is holding my grandson against my chest, watching him sleep and understanding what a precious gift all babies are. And while that works for me as a visitor to the household, the reality for the parents is that meals need to be made, laundry needs to be done, a paycheque needs to be earned. Today an ingeniously long, stretchy piece of fabric can be wrapped around the mother’s body and hold the baby in place against her chest, allowing her to do laundry and other chores. The challenge is not to get so hung up on productivity that the mindful, seemingly purposeless snuggling suffers. we’re all so captivated by this little soul that isn’t likely to happen.
A Stanford University study on multi-tasking found that participants ?don’t focus as well,? and are poorer at ?organizing information? and ?shifting from one task to another.? Researchers had set out to find what extraordinary gifts multi-taskers possessed. Participants? focus, memory, and distractibility were tested.
Researcher Clifford Nass admits to being totally shocked to find that ?multitaskers were just lousy at everything.? Researchers thought multi-taskers ?were very much in control of information. It turns out they were just getting it all confused.? Follow-up tests will be done to assess short- and long-term effects of multi-tasking. Nass says ?the core of the problem is multitaskers think they’re great at what they do and they’ve convinced everybody else.?
Perhaps we need to start a new movement of uni-taskers. We could write articles, give speeches, have meetings. But not all at once, of course. In our house the TV is now off more than It’s on. I have an instrumental CD playing in my laptop while I write. Some days I have a baby boy to hold. That’s all I handle now, from where I sit.