3 Comments to
Learning to Multitask: Don’t Bother

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  1. i have some technical doubts about this post. First, i do not believe children are learning less now that they have computer access. Second, i don’t think american schools were producing ‘intellectuals’ (those who could think and focus deeply) in any number prior to the advent of computers in the classroom. These seem to be pinning points to Dr. Grohols commentary.
    Learning to multi-task and be productive are valuable modern skills. Ask any one who reads 43folders or Allen’s book ‘Getting things done,” and they’ll tell you how they are able to do more with less time.
    I also believe young people are better communicators because of the computer age– I don’t think a candidate like obama could emerge if computers didn’t change grass roots politics. The real problem is that our values haven’t changed and we are still communicating about the same violent. consumerist narcissistic junk. But you can’t blame computers for that as it is a long standing problem.
    If you would like to use an older operating system that is not multi-threaded you won’t have the opportunity to keep all those windows open. I keep my calendar application open all the time and would do the same if it were an appointment book on my desk–no important difference.
    if i learned anything from your modern angst, i have learned you might benefit from modern productivity software like omnifocus for the mac and iphone. i admire you and most of your posts but this specific post presents a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

  2. As a graduate student myself, I can certainly believe how much laptops and multitasking distracts students. I must admit, there are times when I’m sitting at my desk and I begin to open one document to review, the next document to write, then I’ll get online and try to catch up on news from scientific American or the New York Times or USA Today. Before I know it, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time doing more reading on an insightful article than I have on an assignment or work-related duty. In addition, children and adolescents as well as college students (especially first and second year) usually become extremely distracted in class looking at “face-book,” or other social network sites including their AIM lists or better known as their instant messaging systems. I have seen it way too many times and believe it or not, this can be distracting (as well as rude) to both the other students as well as the professor.

    Essentially, multitasking is great! But there are indeed limitations and situations in which multitasking should be discouraged. Reading your face-book posts in class is certainly multitasking, but it is not the efficiently and well utilized multitasking that makes organized adults successful.

  3. @tamra:
    reading facebook isn’t multitasking–it’s goofing off. there have always been kids passing notes and gossiping in class. this is a behavioral issue, not a technology issue.
    i don’t see why the firewall in any wifi node in a public high school should allow facebook or porn or chat servers for a lot of reasons including cheating on tests.
    ny city high schools prohibit mobile phones entirely.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with this post, but I take issue with a couple of things expressed by the first commenter.

    Being able to do more with one’s time is very different to multi-tasking. Merlin Mann of 48 folders is one of the greatest proponents of single tasking, not multi-tasking. He says that doing one thing at a time is a key to productivity. Check your email once or twice a day, limit your browser time, don’t flit from one thing to the next.

    David Allen’s GTD is also based on systematic completion of one thing at a time. Software programs like Omni Focus, which are based on Allen’s GTD, are not designed for multi-tasking but precisely the opposite. Get everything you need to do out of your mind and into a structure, and just focus on the most important thing at hand.

    The first commenter is factually incorrect in using these people to make his or her point.

  5. Wow, I’m impressed. I have no clue how to show more than one window! Sometimes one of my cats strolls across my laptop, and other windows open. But as I have no idea how they did it, I press the “mouse” to try and stay on the same page.

    Years ago, I was one of the first to have a cel phone. It was about the size of a brick. Recently, I broke mine and when I replaced it, they were amazed at how old it was. Three years old!

    I’m a painter, so my hands aren’t always free to hold a phone to my ear. I have considered getting a bluetooth. At one point, I did have a headset that I could talk into, but that is long gone.

    When the bluetooth first surfaced, I knew nothing about it. I just thought that there were a lot of people from “my tribe” wandering around. Now that I know people aren’t just having a meaningful conversation with themselves, I wonder about this technology.

    Part of the problem is that people who use it are not considerate of others around them. Like the Nextell craze, people seem to lose touch with their surroundings.

    A neighbour behind me talks constantly on his bluetooth. Even when I take the dog to the park, he’s there with his. But he’s not really there with his dog Baxter. No, he’s wandering around yapping on his phone.

    He may be a nice guy, but everything that I’ve heard him say doesn’t lead me to believe it. I feel sorry for his wife and new baby. But, this is just my impression.

    So, I thought about getting a bluetooth. A lot of people call me when I’m painting. It’s hard to be up a ladder and listen to some one who needs to talk. But I have decided against it.

    Because, we used to take time to talk. We used to have to go to a phone to make contact. As I work for myself, I can make or take the time to answer phone calls that need my attention. I also do not need to be available 24/7.

  6. I definitely agree. It’s a great article! You write about a thing that I was recently thinking about. In our modern society there’s something wrong about treating people as a task-oriented machines, that could be learned (programmed e.g. by NLP coaches) to do anything. It feels that we’re forgetting that we’re only humans, we’re not immortal, and we have limited resources, everything we do is with some cost. I personally think that the “everything is possible” personal philosophy, that emerged in our century, is something that is really bad way of thinking.

  7. Great tips.
    For implementing GTD you can use this web-based application:


    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version and iCal are available too.

  8. I thought it was just me. I have over 18 years experience in the Insurance Industry. I have just returned to an old job managing an office.And in the short amount of time that I was absent the average workload has doubled. You now have to be able to answer phone calls, take messages, give estimates,write new policies,take payments and monitor existing policies SIMULTANEOUSLY! You can’t make ANY mistakes or else you will hear from someone’s attorney. Geez! I am stressed out. However, I’m thankful just to have a job, considering today’s economy.It appears that the higher ups in most of today’s companies seem to judge performance via reports and daily statistics. I agree with the above article completely. It is very difficult to be precise when the two halves of your brain are divided into eight activities. Technology came with a promise of more efficiency, profits and production.But it has a price.And the price is stress.Welcome to our brave new world.



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