Google the word "multitasking" or the phrase "continual partial awareness" and you have instantly waded into the debate about whether those who claim to be great multitaskers - able to juggle two or more tasks at once - are getting more done or are instead just fooling themselves.
The research seems firmly on the side of the "you're fooling yourself" position, but after due consideration, I think the research is flawed: unless you live in a cloistered monastery, it's a false choice to ask "multitask or not," but rather how much multitasking is appropriate for each situation and how do you do it to the greatest effect.
The real world demands some level of multitasking ability and pretending otherwise is a recipe for frustration and failure. Instead, I think the time is better spent becoming accustomed to complex, chaotic environments so you don't overload, being deliberate and thoughtful about what tasks can be multitasked and when (texting and driving, for example, are generally incompatible) and developing the skills of switching tasks as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So says the guy who is currently:
- Writing this post
- Editing my website
- Making notes on a crisis plan
- Keeping an eye on a flight for later today
- Checking e-mail
- Watching the news
- Listening to music
- Texting to the family group chat
What say you?