Not Necessarily Distracted

We as a society have been accused of poor attention management, which is pretty funny when you think about it. How can we have poor attention management when nearly 100% of our attention is focused on our gadgets? Seriously, some people pursue perfection a little too aggressively.

I joke, but in this age where multitasking is both a way of life and an “enemy”, these are the “funny because it’s true” jokes available.

We think of multitasking as randomly jumping between a number of projects with very little thought, simply because we can’t keep our focus on one project. Studies have been conducted to show how harmful multitasking is to our productivity. Books have been written about this menace.

But multitasking isn’t necessarily a lack of focus, and it isn’t necessarily a menace. In some cases, multitasking is an ongoing review and shuffling of priorities to better make sure everything is done well and on time. In some cases, multitasking can help make processing a to-do list more efficient. In some cases, … hang on, I’m about to get three stars on this Angry Bird level. Aha! Got it!

Again, I joke. We all know my game of choice is The Sims Social. I like to feel some sense of accomplishment in my gaming. (Actually, I do, but that’s a conversation for another post.)

My point is, multitasking can actually be a force for good instead of a scattering of focus. My friends will tell you I keep an insanely long to-do list, and on most days I get through that entire list. I don’t necessarily get each task done in one sitting, but I get it done. Where multitasking’s strengths lie are in its ability to allow you to look at upcoming tasks and projects and figure out the best order to get that work completed in the least amount of time and effort and its variety, offering options for productive breaks from larger tasks.

Sometimes, tasks from different projects can be completed at the same time because they require the same resources. I see that as streamlining; others scream that I’m multitasking because I’m bouncing between projects. Sometimes, I’ll hit a wall on a project, and at that point I shift to a different project and do a task off that project’s list, and it clears my mind enough to help me get past the block on the first project, allowing me to complete it. I do freelance work – there are times when I’ll be working on a project, and a job will come in that needs a fairly quickly turnaround. So, I shift from the project I was working on to get that done and back, and then return to my original project. Again, some say, “Multitasking”; I say just getting through a day with my sanity intact.

We may think of multitasking as being “all over the place”, but really it can be employed to help move through a number of tasks and projects quickly, efficiently, and in a timely manner.


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