Multi-Tasking Writers: are you a tortoise or a hare (part 3).


Paula’s Post #98

For those of you who, like me, are compelled to ‘google’ everything, (from the calories in our Starbucks to the stars of the latest binge series on Netflix) I challenge you to enter the following terms into the search box:

‘What multi-tasking does to your brain”


1. Having 20 tabs open on your laptop while shapchatting with your best friend, eating a sandwich, and listening to Taylor Swift is overwhelming, and makes you mean.

Drake Baker, Fast Company, October 2013.

2. You’ve likely heard that multitasking is problematic, but new studies show that it kills your performance and may even damage your brain.

Travis Bradberry, Forbes, October 2014

3. If you are sending a text, watching the TV or listening to the radio, you may want to stop and give this your full attention.

Multi-tasking shrinks the brain, research suggests, and it could even be damaging your career.

A study found that men and women who frequently used several types of technology at the same time had less grey matter in a key part of the brain.

Fiona MacRae for the Daily Mail, September 2014

These are just a few of the headlines from the top results, but peruse these and similar articles for just a few minutes. After all, that’s likely all the time you have if, like me, you’re engaged in ‘multi-tasking’ (say, for instance, composing this blog post a day late, while:

1) watching your new, 3 pound, 8 week old puppy terrorize your 80 pound dog who has just realized this crazed little whirling dervish is here to stay; and

2) simultaneously checking your email on all six accounts you maintain in case anything important happens to:

a) the deal for the sale of your house;

b) the offer on the house you want to acaquire;

c) the two listings you have in Canada;

d) the two listings you have in California; and

3) Finishing off your online shopping order for the 10 pounds of puppy food shipped by and the birthday toys shipped to baby granddaughter M in Canada, making sure to tick all the boxes for rush delivery and gift wrap since somehow you were supposed to have done this 2 days ago but were barrelling down the long expanse of I-5, and

4) Finishing your grocery list, (completely out of coffee and milk, – how can that be?) while dressing for your tennis team match at 1:00 (no, I’m not playing, while all my team mates have focused on lessons and the ball machine, I’ve focused on puppies and properties, so now am ‘benched’ until my fitness level and doubles strategy improve substantially, but hey, there is a video I can order for that online too, and I’m pretty sure I can watch it while keeping the new puppy at bay, finishing up my novel for my book club meeting on February 10th and ordering movers and packing materials just in case my house deal completes, (which I’ll be checking the status of in my US work email account, (except I better check all the accounts, because sometimes they come to my personal account.

5) Checking what new Pins are on Pinterest, what new Status Updates are on Facebook and what new Listings are on Redfin, but that hardly counts, because I do that every hour anyway, and even if I don’t, I get a reminder email telling me to do so… so I really don’t need to worry, do I.

Or do I?

Those of us of a certain age are already worried enough about the A word (Alzheimers) and even the more garden variety D word (Dementia). Do we really need an avalanche of new scientific studies that suggest that all the modern miracles of technology and social media are shrinking our brains and turning are brains into the grey matter equivalent of quivering jellyfish.

What are we to do about all these new studies. How are we to take a giant step back and rethink how we function throughout the day in a ‘back to basics’ one task at a time kind of way?

I’m the first to say I do not know the answers to all these questions, but I’ve started to try to find them. Without some serious consideration about how to simplify my life and focus on one task at a time, I fear my latest novel has no hope of getting completed, much less published, even with the option of self-publishing on Amazon.

So… I’m open to all suggestions. You can respond to this blog post and I promise to get back to you. Probably sooner than I should.  After all, I am, regrettably, still Hare.

8 thoughts on “Multi-Tasking Writers: are you a tortoise or a hare (part 3).

  1. Paula, Paula, Paula! I think you may need an intervention, sister-scorpio-friend! An intervention for your addiction to multi-tasking … but, well, obviously you’ve already recognized you have a problem.

    I myself am a recovering multi-tasking addict, and I struggle with it every day. The first step is admitting you’re hooked on a habit that’s a) totally sanctioned by our culture, b) relentlessly promoted to increase “sales”, and c) potentially harmful to the “consumer”.

    I meant all that to be a joke, and somehow it came off as a not-joke! However, I do wish to point out a glaring symptom of how multi-tasking is affecting you. Item #4 on your list consists of 17 words, plus another 122 words in parentheses … except the parentheses consist of four opening parentheses and only one closing one (after the first phrase).

    Hmm … this sounds like a bad case of parenthetical life with no end in sight! Not sure what that means, but it sounded kinda profound.

    Oh, just relax and play with your puppies!!!

  2. I’m speechless!
    Well not really 🙂
    It’s too much Paula. Let some of it go. Pinterest? Really? Given that all you have going on I think you can let go of that and your world won’t collapse. Mmmmm, let’s see, what else? Oh I know – googling endlessly for useless info like calories in coffee and actors on Netflix. All the googling just to fill your time so you don’t have to time for what you really want to do. That can go. Mmmmm what else . . . . . . oh I’m sure you get the picture by now. Prioritize! Make a list of what’s really important and let go of everything else. You’ll be surprised by how peaceful things get. And how much time you have.
    With much affection, and good luck

    • A bad case of a parenthetical life with no end in sight – love it! That’s hilarious. Since I posted though I’m feeling a bit of cathartic release, just by sharing… soon I may give up my love of dot dot dot… which allows me not to finish sentences (or close parentheses) in the hope of having something else more to say. Do you think there is hope in sight?

      And Alison… let it go… wait. I recognize that phrase. Isn’t that the theme song from Frozen that Elsa and Ana thing (I want you to know I didn’t even google to find out how to spell their names or to include the music audio clip of the song. Heaven knows I’ve heard enough because that particular DVD is worshipped by the 2-4 grand-daughter set (I have two in that category) Oh, and Silk, – I closed my parentheses twice, – I’m already on the road to rehab!

      • Haha! Just call me a modern Carrie Nation, reformer extraordinaire … as long as I don’t have to apply it to myself!

        Truly, though, you may plead ADD all you like, but I think you’re just driven to accomplish things — because you can do so many things are are capable of so much. But just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Strangely (and maybe this will sound familiar), I find one of the hardest things in life to be making choices — which means picking something, but also leaving something else behind. I want to do everything! I’m learning, at my advanced age, that this can be a road to getting nothing done at all.

  3. Ah, you are so right! Do we settle down and focus, or do we just keep sewing new badges on our girl scout sashes. For me, the jury is still out. I must say I’m never bored. And perhaps I fear boredom most of all.

  4. I am finally taking advice I know to be good and learning to meditate (since last September). I do this online, sitting at my desk with headphones, it takes 10 to 20 minutes a day. It has improved my life already, though I am still only in the foothills and struggle with many of the instructions. There are many places to do this. I use Headspace.

    • Thanks for weighing in Hilary, I’ve often wondered if meditation would help, but the prospect of sitting ‘still’ for the time it takes frankly frightens me. I may need to explore theses options though. Glad to hear it has helped you.

  5. I can relate Paula. I think our naturally curious and ambitious nature is corrupted by the online media that sucks at our attention, along with, as Silk mentioned, the way this scattered behavior is sanctioned by our modern digital society. I will say that, though I haven’t done it lately, meditation does help… a lot. It takes away that frenzied panicky feeling that you’ll never get it all done, or that you’re somehow falling behind. It helps you focus on the one or two or three things that are truly important, and to choose to spend your time on just ONE of those things at a time until you really do get something done. Try it. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself and your work, and how much less that noise bothers you. It will fade into the background as you gain clarity.

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