Is Monotasking Making a Comeback?
In a world of multitaskers, it looks like monotasking is coming back in style. At least I’d like to think so.
In “Read this Story without Distraction,” Verena von Pfetten discusses the information overload that interferes with our professional and personal lives. Faced with an unprecedented level of distraction – from that iphone on every lunch table to the imminent pull of a constant stream of information – we humans, it seems, are losing our ability to concentrate on any one task.
In fact, last year the Telegraph reported that – thanks to smart phones – humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish.
I can believe it. Whether the task at hand is work-related (and, perhaps, tedious), or pleasurable (such as going to the movies), so many of us feel the need to be doing something else – checking on the score of a game, or shooting off a quick message. Even when we pay top dollar for entertainment, our devices distract us. On a recent outing to a Broadway show, I was stunned at the number of cell phones I saw lit up throughout the dark theater. Waiting those 90 minutes until intermission is too much for a growing number of theater-goers to handle.
“That is what addiction looks like,” a friend of mine commented, when I shared my shock at the changing behavior of audiences. These are not kids, who have grown up believing their phones are just an extension of their fingers. These are fully formed adults, who, a handful of years ago, would have considered it incredibly rude and disruptive to turn a phone on in a theater.
According to a poll commissioned by Adobe Systems Inc, millennials are particularly tied to their devices. “Millennials are so addicted to emails that half can’t even use the bathroom without checking their email,” said Adobe’s Kristin Naragon. But the good news is, people are growing aware of their addiction, and trying to regain a better life balance. The same poll reported that 40 percent had attempted a self-imposed email detox.
I recently took an online poll to determine whether I was addicted to my iphone. I may not be in the danger zone, but I still believe I would be far more productive if it were not so easy to toggle from word documents to news outlets to social media and back. This theory was confirmed some weeks ago when my house lost power – and an internet connection – for seven hours. It was the most productive day I had had in months.
Imagine how much more productive we could all be if we could focus on one task at a time?
“Multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years,” von Pfetten writes. “A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.”
I’m starting this week off by taking the monotasking challenge. I just hope I can do it without losing power.