Multi-tasking: the war continues

Time magazine from last week was superb. It’s now official. Multitasking is not good for you, and can be unproductive.

Here’s the link:,9263,7601060116,00.html#Anchortoc – unfortunately it’s changed to premium content, and also note for NZ readers, the cover is different.

But there’s more: beyond multitasking into “continuous partial attention”. A term from Linda Stone.

A quote from:

“It’s not the same as multitasking, Stone says; that’s about trying to accomplish several things at once. With continuous partial attention, we’re scanning incoming alerts for the one best thing to seize upon: “How can I tune in in a way that helps me sync up with the most interesting, or important, opportunity?”

She says: “It’s crucial for CEOs to be intentional about breaking free from continuous partial attention in order to get their bearings. Some of today’s business books suggest that speed is the answer to today’s business challenges. Pausing to reflect, focus, think a problem through; and then taking steady steps forward in an intentional direction is really the key.”

O’Reilly has also written about her comments:
His notes of Stones talk include this:
“With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we’re connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive.

We’ve been working to maximize opportunities and contacts in our life. So much social networking, so little time. Speed, agility, and connectivity at top of mind. Marketers humming that tune for two decades now.

Now we’re over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled”

This interests me. For a while last year I experimented with a sign on my door “Busy, but disturbable” which for me meant “Don’t disturb unless important” It sort of worked. I then found out the problem was me, possibly with a little urgency addiction (which is something I knew I was prone to, but didn’t have a label until the time mag came along).

The answer?? Clumping. [Now, where did that term come from . . must look sometime] Redirect your phone. Switch off your e-mail notification, or reduce it to hourly.

OK, that’s some self discipline, some behaviours . . But how to REALLY focus. That’s the challenge.

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