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One vs. Many

by Miki Saxon

5165975915_f3ce5eec91_nWay back in 2006 I was preaching the value of unwiring and I’ve written often on the fallacy of multitasking and the resultant diminishing productivity and creativity.

A new post at HBR is titled The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time and connects the always-on, multitasking approach to high burn-out levels in the workforce.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Of nearly 500 comments, almost all of those I scanned were in agreement.

83% of the US population owns a cell and nearly half of them are smartphones, but there are unlikely holdouts.

Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” argues in the book that because of the brain’s neuroplasticity, Web surfing rewires people to be more adept at perfunctory multitasking, but diminishes the ability to sustain focus and think interpretatively.

It’s not just an age thing; younger users voice similar concerns.

Jim Harig, 24, a senior evaluation analyst at Ernst & Young in Chicago… Mr. Harig said he worried about distractibility and regarded most applications as time wasters instead of productivity boosters. “I don’t want to end up falling victim to the smartphone, where I dive in and get lost for hours at a time.”

There is enormous peer pressure on both topics—multitasking has become a competitive sport (watch for the first World Multitasking Championship) as have smartphones—and peer pressure is no easier to combat as an adult than it was as a teen.

However, you do have a choice and, hopefully, your choice will reflect your long-term health and success as opposed to the short-term goal of fitting in or being cool.

Flickr image credit: Lisa Risager

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