Slow Down and Tune In, Dammit!

Tim Leffel recently blogged about how multitasking is a myth. And it is.

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“Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes,” said David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist and director of the Brain, Cognition and Action Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “Disruptions and interruptions are a bad deal from the standpoint of our ability to process information.”

I’ve long believed this to be true and have tried in vein to dispel this myth amongst my friends, colleagues, and my Blackberry-addicted, always-on/always-connected boss. As I type this blog post on a dual-monitor computer, with Microsoft Outlook open to check my work e-mail, Yahoo mail open to check my personal e-mail, talk radio streaming through my laptop’s speakers, and a half-eaten sandwich on my desk, it’s evident that the multitasking myth has pervaded the workplace. Sound familiar?

How about this: sitting in your living room with the TV on for background noise; your laptop open to alert you of any incoming e-mails; cell phone in your pocket just in case; reading a book; and occasionally contributing to the odd, terse conversation with your significant other? I know I’m guilty of not practicing what I preach.

Multitasking pervades every aspect of life I can imagine. Tim notes that travel is certainly no exception:

If you’re trying to get the most out of your travel experience, carrying around a laptop, a cell phone, and a GPS receiver is going to make you much less aware of what’s really going on around you. Walking around some 8th-century ruins with white earplugs cranking music is akin to reading a book while watching TV: you’re only half concentrating on both.

Amen, Tim. Technology affords us great luxury and convenience, but the passive entertainment that a laptop, iPod, etc. can provide should not replace or even supplement many of the once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences we’d otherwise be foregoing.

Ironically, I believe my entire trip will find me more connected in the ways that matter – making new friends, exploring new cultures, sampling new foods – by disconnecting me in the ways that don’t.

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