Remember when operating systems came out and the big feature that they touted was their ability to offer a “true multitasking experience” or something along those lines? I mean, this happened within the last 20 years, give-or-take, so it wasn’t that long ago.
But if you ever used a machine prior that did not allow for multitasking, then it really did introduce an entire change into your workflow.
What?! Multiple applications open at the same time and I can share (read: copy and paste) data between them?
Now we can’t really imagine not having that, right? Our phones even do it. But short of whatever the next big technological advancement that we have in the computing industry may be, I think we have hit a massive point on the curve of our ability to multitask.
I know there’s research that says that we – as humans – are not actually able to multitask that well – and I think there is some truth to that – but I also have peers be able to do a much better job of it than I am. That’s completely fine with me, but the point of me bringing it up is that, you know, what works for some doesn’t work for others.
We’re all very different in our abilities to take advantage of this, but I don’t think I’m actually that great at it.
So Many Activities
I think that we’re at a point in computing history where the sheer number of things that we’re able to have open – that can demand our attention – is so much further than we may have ever thought it would be.
I mean, multiple applications, multiple browsers, multiple devices, and so on. And then we’ve got multitasking available per app – just think about multiple chat rooms in IRC or Slack or multiple tabs in a web browser.
And then we have these “companion” applications that work on our devices that allow us to pick up exactly where we left off on our desktop and continue reading and/or working on our mobile device without missing a beat.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s absolutely fascinating and I love that we have this ability.
But the more stuff that I end up using or the more stuff that comes our way, the more I realize how little I need to actually get work done and how much of a distraction so many tasks (or however many multitasks – or whatever the word is :) end up being.
I mean think about how easy it is to go an entire, say, hour and aim to get work done but not actually be productive at all.
When I sit down to work in the morning, I dig looking at the list of tasks that I need to work through throughout the day and then start getting stuff done. This goes from answering emails, writing a blog post, responding to phone calls, and then getting into the zone.
But there are so many other things that end up vying for attention, too – what about this chat room or that blog post or trying our that app or so and and so forth until the end of the day comes and I’ve still got an inbox full of email and a partially drafted blog post.
What if I miss out on something amazing? What if I miss out on being on the inside of the next big inside joke?
Sure, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you know the feeling I’m talking about.
That feeling sucks.
Do Something About It
At some point, I think we hit a point where we decide to let it consume us and bleed out of procrastination, or we tie it off and then do something about it.
What I’ve done is what works for me. This isn’t advice, it’s not prescriptive – I’d never say “Hey, if you just do these things, then you’d be more productive, too.!”
I’m not selling that. I’m not selling anything.
With that said, over the last few years I’ve found that drastically cutting down on social media has helped me a lot:
- I’m off Facebook
- I’m off Instagram
- I don’t leave Twitter open all day (I’ll open it, tweet, respond, etc., then close it)
- I use apps to manage the things that I really should do
- I don’t participate in a lot of chat rooms
- I don’t attend a lot of meet ups
- I’m cutting down on the number of emails I even respond to (I know, this comes off as really rude and it’s deserving of its own post. The struggle is real.)
- And so on.
Some of these things I want to do – like go to more meet ups or to speak more – the challenge right now, though, isn’t so much time in productivity as it is the stage that my [growing] family. It’s priorities.
Other things, like Facebook, I deliberately avoid nor want to be a part of – but that’s another post.
Then there are things like certain chat rooms (or channels) that I’d love to be more active in because of the people who are there, the discussions that take place, and so on, but I simply can’t focus on both the work I need to do and the conversations in which I want to participate, so I have to prioritize.
Again, it’s just me and it’s how I’m built.
So that’s what works for me. Maybe there’s more to write about this in a future post, or maybe this is just a one-off sharing my own personal experience with dealing with the challenges of working online most of the day.