Really, I Can Keep Up. Maybe.

How many of us multi-task?  How many of us multi-task to the point of distraction?  I’m not talking about doing two or three things at once, but excessive multi-tasking.  The kind that ends up with poor quality output on every task, not just a few.

I am often guilty of this.  I’m one of those “busy people” that tries to do it all sometimes.  Not all the time, sometimes I shut down from sheer overload.  But really, often I am doing way more than I should be doing.  It reminds me of a saying, “when you die, do you want your tombstone to read ‘he was a workaholic’?”  Much of my multi-tasking is work-related, and some of it is personal.  We all have so many goals in life, and we are always trying to meet those goals.

But aren’t we also being sucked into an awful lot of “shoulds” that should really aren’t necessary?  How many times in a day do you update your Facebook account, post on Twitter, text a family member or friend on a cell phone, have an instant chat with a colleague or friend, make a quick phone call, etc.?  And how many times are these things being done simultaneously?

One of the reasons I have not jumped on the Twitter bandwagon is that I don’t need one more thing sucking what little bit of time and energy I have left.  (Yes, I have a Twitter account and a handful of “followers” but I know it’s been several days since I even bothered to log into my Twitter account – my username is susabelle, of course.)  Isn’t Facebook, email, instant messenger, texting on my cell phone, and phone calls, enough?

A new study out this week indicates that the heaviest multi-taskers, those trying to do three or more things at once, have the most trouble switching quickly between tasks, ignoring irrelevant information, and remembering important information.  According to Clifford Nass, communications professor at Stanford University who conducted the research, “Anyone who’s a heavy multitasker should be aware of the fact that they’re no good at it.”

I would have to agree.  I know that my productivity overall is greatly reduced by the fact that I am trying to do too much at once, flipping between tasks or activities that grab up bits and pieces of my brain’s RAM, and eventually becoming overloaded.  All of those “must do” things that we feel compelled to keep up with just make us more harried, and clearly runs the risk of lowering our ability to “do it all” with any kind of quality.  And in the end, I don’t want to be know for the quantity of my life, but the quality of it.

Are you a multi-tasker?  Is your multi-tasking getting out of control?