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  • Multi-tasking and productivity

    I want to start a small discussion and ask people around here ,their views on multi-tasking.

    firstly I just wanna know ,what it actually is ? doing more than one task at once right ?

    coz I have lots of *female* friends who claim they are awesome at multi=taskinng , but the way I think about it , that you are not paying enough attention to one task at hand and taking another , either the tasks are not demanding enough , then good great go ahead do it , but aren't we disturbing our concentration ?

    Question - > Are we good at handling one task at once , is that more productive ?

    My exams just finished,and I got loads of time to think and implement ,this is something I wanted to clear ,

    on this basis of concentrating on one task at once , I've decide I am going to stop reading as and when I get time , in the bus or in the bathroom, and instead actually dedicate a time and concentrate in whatever I can grasp

    wat to u ppl say , suggest ?

  • #2
    Originally posted by pakiyabhai
    and instead actually dedicate a time and concentrate in whatever I can grasp
    While you bring an interesting point, part of me thinks that you might be going slightly astray.

    At least in my interpretation, one of the purposes of GTD is to allow you to focus on what you are doing, now, in the moment, because you are not otherwise distracted by open loops. Multitasking can work, but at least for me, its more in the idea of if something small or more urgent arises (2-minute rule or a redefining of priorities) then I can move to that task and then move forward from there. I think from what you've written, that you may be on the same page as me in that.

    However, the place you may be going astray would be removing the context step of the decision making process, and moving everything to your hard landscape (calendar). By moving everything to a prescheduled time, you lose the flexibility of GTD, and really, you are then doing all the action choosing regardless of energy levels (which are usually better reviewed at the moment) and the time available and relative priorities of the actions (which can change at any moment).

    Now, from my readings, and somewhat in my own system, it seems that people will compromise on this. Even GTD states that actions that must be done at a certain date/time and they are directly scheduled on the hard landscape. Other people will block certain periods of time for certain contexts or projects if they require that as a reference, or only to make sure that it does get done before becoming too urgent. If reading is one of those things that must be done (ex. readings for work, school, etc.), then blocks set aside for that may be relevant as well, becaue then it would very likely have a deadline attached for it. But if it more recreational in nature, it might be difficult to block out, unless you find that the only way you get time to relax is by scheduling this time, otherwise work/school takes over.

    Hmmm . . . even through the process of writing this message, I guess I have moderated a bit in my own views, but the core still is, overscheduling moves away from the flexibility that GTD provides. There can be reasons that certain activities/actions/projects/etc. must be scheduled, but I'd rather keep that to a minimum and fill in my hard landscape around that.

    Hope this helps, and sorry for the long post!

    Adam

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    • #3
      David says....

      It is on David's video clip that is up on the corporate site ... he says that that you can only truly focus on one thing at a time. What "multitasking" really means is 'rapid refocusing'.

      I don't know if women are any better at it than men, but they may be more used to it, because they tend to be more relational and interactive, and relationships tend to be more interruptive in nature. My car doesn't try talk to me while I work on it, but my daughter does while I brush her hair.

      I think you might also take the view that multitasking means "engaging in more than one mindless task at a time, without being interrupted by something that requires serious attention." You might be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but neither demands a lot of focus if you've been doing both for years.

      Gordon

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      • #4
        divided attention?

        The issue is divided attention rather than rapid refocusing (such as being interupted and then returning to the task). One of you who is a better searcher than I might find the comments made by a microsoft engineer who spoke about this and the role of computers in creating this and also in detecting when someone's divided attention is divided too many ways or for too long.
        Last edited by Jamie Elis; 10-06-2006, 01:03 PM. Reason: spelling error

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        • #5
          Originally posted by pakiyabhai
          I have lots of *female* friends who claim they are awesome at multi=taskinng , but the way I think about it , that you are not paying enough attention to one task at hand and taking another , either the tasks are not demanding enough , then good great go ahead do it , but aren't we disturbing our concentration ?
          Yes, this is exactly right. When you attend to two things at once, you don't perform as well on either task. You can, perhaps, perform acceptably if the two tasks are easy enough. For example, you can drive and talk on a cell phone. But you won't drive as well; you'll make more mistakes, and reactions to unexpected events will be slower. You can talk to your friend and watch three small children, but the children will probably get into more trouble than they would if you were devoting all your attention to them.

          Practically speaking, though, we don't always need our very best performance for a task, and it makes sense to juggle several. For example, it makes sense to read something on the bus, but perhaps not difficult course-related reading that needs your most focused attention.

          Originally posted by pakiyabhai
          Question - > Are we good at handling one task at once , is that more productive ?
          No. There are thousands of studies by cognitive psychologists showing that performance deteriorates when humans try to do two or more different tasks. This is true even for the simplest of tasks. And this is true for both males and females. This phenomenon is called the "cognitive bottleneck," and lots of work aims to understand how this works in the brain.

          Furthermore, there is always overhead in switching from one task to another. This is true for computer processors also. Lots of research is done to characterize the task switching overhead for various tasks.

          So for demanding tasks, it is best to devote your full attention to only one task for a reasonable chunk of time, until just before mental fatigue would set in.

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          • #6
            Multi-tasking?

            I seem to remember reading in DA's book about the importance of getting rid of dead stuff in one's general filing system and him saying he did this while he took part in boring conferencing calls. Isn't that multi-tasking? It seems to me the sort of multi-tasking that is a good idea and it leads to more productivity not less.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by tominperu
              I seem to remember reading in DA's book about the importance of getting rid of dead stuff in one's general filing system and him saying he did this while he took part in boring conferencing calls. Isn't that multi-tasking? It seems to me the sort of multi-tasking that is a good idea and it leads to more productivity not less.
              I'm assuming boring conference call refers to one in which he is not actively involved or not an active speaker. I know from experience, that if I am on a conference call where I am not an active participant and I try to do mindless work, like skim email, that at a fairly early point I tune out the call entirely. Usually this means I miss something that i should have heard.

              However, I can read on the bus, do language on CD on the bus, etc. I think that's because I have no active responsibility on the bus.

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