A recent study has shown what I thought all along – multi-tasking is bad for you. For years, I’ve been told that I needed to multi-task, that I needed to get more things done in a less amount of time, that I needed to get the lead out. So, as you might imagine, I was thrilled to find out that I was doing it right for most of my life … which is, one thing at a time.
The study revealed that very few people are good at multi-tasking, but a lot of people do it anyway, because it makes them feel good about themselves. Heck, I feel good about myself if I can remember to zip my pants before I leave the house in the morning.
The study involved 32 college students, who recorded their media use, as well as motivations for each activity … such as, Tiffany was watching “Gossip Girls” on TV, while texting her BFF, Eurekia, about her boyfriend, Trent, while painting her toe nails, while heating up some pizza, while attempting to write a sociological paper on the effect sweat has on edible underwear; or, Ted was watching “SpongeBob Squarepants,” while texting his bud, Scotty, about his girlfriend, Taffy, while trying to retrieve that last wad of nose gold, while eating cold pizza, while attempting to write a physics paper on why beer is better than water. Their motivation? Who are we kidding here, they don’t have motivation, they’re 19-year-old college students.
It was different when I was in college in the long, long ago before time. We didn’t have computers, and I-Pads, and smart phones, no siree, we had typewriters, and pens and paper, and dumb phones that were wired to the wall. Students, today, know the second something happens, students of my era were lucky to know where our cars were parked. And, as for motivation, I and many other male students of my era, did have motivation … it was called the war in Vietnam, or the police action in Vietnam, or, the more popular, a person could get killed in Vietnam. Some students had more motivation than others. I had high motivation since my draft number was 54.
However, that didn’t stop me from taking risks, such as multi-tasking. Yes, I must admit, during my young adult years I fell victim to the idea that a person could efficiently do more than one thing at a time. So, I went to class and slept at the same time, studied and slept at the same time, partied and studied at the same time, and partied and partied at the same time. Well, you get the idea. Anyway, I finally realized all that multi-tasking wasn’t working out, that I needed to focus, or I would be getting up close and personal with Charlie. So, I guess you could say my fear of multi-tasking stems from self-preservation.
The study also showed that students were more likely to multi-task when they had a cognitive need, such as studying. However, get this, the multi-tasking didn’t do a very good job of satisfying the cognitive need, which was the motivating factor in the first place, according to Zhen Wang, author of the study. Wang found out that using other media distracted students from studying. I may not be author of the study, after all Wang is an Asian woman, but I could have come up with that conclusion while watching TV, playing scrabble and attempting to zip my pants.
The really scary part is that multi-tasking is getting more and more popular every day. Now, anyone who’s watched TV or had an operation knows that surgeons like to play music during surgery. What if the next time Dr. Kildare is doing heart surgery, he not only puts “Jumpin’Jack Flash” on the stereo, but decides to watch “Golden Girls” returns, while also zipping his pants. Tragedy could ensue, in more ways than one.
You may ask, and rightly so, if I’m so opposed to multi-tasking why then I am in the newspaper business, a vocation that can take multi-tasking to the extreme. Well, by accident, actually. When the Mistress of the Manor and I returned to the area following by stint as a trained killer (yes, the army got me after all), the job market was in disarray, probably because of all the multi-tasking.
My first job was selling cemetery property, vaults, caskets and markers, but that proved to be a dead-end job. Okay, I apologize for that. The next job I found was with a newspaper and, bingo, almost 40 years later, here I am. Over the years, I have been forced to multi-task, and believe you me I find it stressful, dare I say, tortuous. Multi-tasking is about as pleasant as watching remake of Brokeback Mountain starring Wilfred Brimley and “Rooster” Edwards. And that, my friends, is not good for anyone.