Confessions of a multitasker
By CHARLOTTE SUTTON June 18, 2013 10:16AM
Updated: July 20, 2013 6:06AM
My name is Charlotte and I am a multitasker.
Thank you for allowing me to speak at this meeting of Multitaskers Anonymous, or MA -- so appropriate given that ours is an affliction especially connected with motherhood.
As other 12-step programs have taught us, the first step to recovery is admitting we are powerless over our addiction. The fifth is admitting the exact nature of our wrongs.
I am here now to do both. You will appreciate the efficiency, I’m sure.
Anyway, on a recent morning, I needed to go to the gym, take the dog out for a walk, and get caught up on the day’s news -- all in a half-hour. Oh, and I’d been meaning to try a different route through the neighborhood.
So I hatched a plan.
I would run this new route with the dog, juggling his leash and rest stops while listening to NPR on my smartphone, on which an app would track my intervals, just as if I were on the treadmill.
What could possibly go wrong?
Looking back, I failed to factor in two things: my dog’s fondness for being justthisclose to me at all times, and the uneven pavement that snagged my toe as I attempted to step around him.
Next thing you know, I’m in a heap on the sidewalk, my left knee badly skinned and my left hand swelling impressively. The dog stayed loyally at my side.
I got up to resume my multiple tasks, until I looked at my left pinkie and saw that it was bent at an unfamiliar angle.
So I stand before you today with this attractive black cast on my left hand and forearm. What you can’t see, since I’ve sworn off short skirts for now, is a knee that hasn’t been this scabby since I tried to race a friend down a steep hill on roller skates.
I was not multitasking then; I was being 9.
A broken finger is far from terrible, though for a writer it is inconvenient. I am managing fairly well, and have even kept the pouting to a minimum.
But this episode has forced me to face my addiction, fellow multitaskers, in a way nothing else has. Intellectually, I know this is a very bad habit.
-- A University of Utah study found the more you multitask, the worse you are at getting anything done well, and the more likely you are to do potentially dangerous things like using a phone while driving.
While I would never text while driving -- I may be a multitasker, but I’m not an idiot -- I have been known to talk on the phone while driving. Now, however, I need my one good hand for the steering wheel.
-- Other studies suggest that multitaskers are 40 percent less productive than those who focus. Constantly switching between tasks is just as bad as doing tasks simultaneously.
-- And the worst part: Multitasking may have long-term negative impacts on brain function. Even when multitaskers force themselves to stick to one job, they just aren’t as focused as other people, research has found.
“One day at a time” is something of a mantra among our fellow 12-steppers. Perhaps we multitaskers could benefit from a slight variation:
One thing at a time.