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The Myth of Multitasking and Chronic Distraction – Part 1

In casual conversations with friends and family recently, I have recognized some repeated themes. Distraction. Exhaustion. Overwhelm. Burnout. We all seem to be trying to juggle too much, with too little. Too little time… only two hands… and only one heartbeat. We are left with no margin and we find it hard to regain our focus for what we truly identify as our real priority. We have sacrificed the most important for the quicksand of overload and busy.

We no longer recognize distraction for what it is. Distraction is akin to the interference on the TV set of the 60’s with bad antenna reception and maladjusted bunny ears. {Okay… if you are under 30 you may not know what this is, so rather than google it, just ask one of your elders}.

Research indicates there is likely a strong connection between distraction and the practice of multitasking. Unfortunately, our culture has encouraged an affinity for multitasking, apparently to our detriment.

... makes you "better than you were before. Better, stronger, faster."

You may have heard or believed any of the following over the last two decades:

  • In general, women tend to be better multitaskers than men.

  • If you are a woman and you can’t really multitask that well… then there might just be something wrong with you.

  • You should love and embrace multitasking, because it is sort-of what makes “the-world-go-round” (at least after Y2K).

  • The more you can multitask, the more you are getting done.

  • Multitasking makes you “better than you were before. Better, faster, stronger.” … {Okay, I borrowed that last one from The Six Million Dollar Man, but it seemed to fit the myth... right?!?}

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but at some point, quite a few decades ago, our American culture began selling us the idea that multitasking was a worthy pursuit which made us better than the next guy. And, unfortunately, we bought it… hook, line, and sinker – until now {hopefully}.

One article connected some of the modern-day multitasking bent to the roll-out of the Windows Operating System, where you can have limitless windows open at one time. It likely started before then. However, this certainly gave us a false sense of validation that multitasking was the wave of the future… and we better jump on for the ride, or else miss out altogether.

It is interesting that we are now finally discovering the real truth. Multitasking is a misnomer, and really nothing more than task-switching. Furthermore, although we think we do it well, research indicates we do not, and that it actually makes us less efficient and effective in many ways. In essence, we end up giving only a fraction of our attention to any one thing. We train our brain to be unable to have a singular intentional focus. We end up welcoming any needless distraction… and then we invite it in for coffee… to sit down and chat for a while… and sometimes have a sleepover.

So, do you really want to be the best Windows Operating System you can be? Or, would you really rather be the best human being you can be? Unique by design, and engaged in walking the best path God has laid out just for you?

Next week, in Part 2, I’ll share more about the science and research that debunks the “multi multitasking myths”. And, I’ll introduce you to a new term and novel concept - monotasking. See you then!

In the meantime, this week, allow yourself to be distracted by the amusement of how continually distracted you are. Yes, I’m serious! Take note and notice your proclivity to participate and encourage all the distractions in your life. It will make Part 2 really resonate!



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> Strategically placed here to avoid the temptation ;-) of distraction <

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