To Multi-Task or Not

Yeah, I know: I just talked about taking a good long break, and now here I am talking about multi-tasking. Sorry about that–if you’re taking a break, you should just keep on doing that for a while. You can think about multi-tasking later. I’m thinking about it now because I just finished interviewing Traci Bautista, who *knows* multi-tasking. I get tired and need to go lie down just thinking about all she does in one single day.

Except that I don’t actually nap. Not unless I’m sick. I guess I need to go back and read Wednesday’s post, huh?

Anyway. Once upon a time multi-tasking was the sign of someone on the fast track, sure to get ahead and Do Great Things. You’d read about people who got more done by 9:00 am than most of us do all day, and they weren’t even in the military. I saw a woman at Starbucks last night who was working on her iPad, drinking coffee, and having multiple conversations on her iPhone, all at the same time. I wondered how it was going for her, because in the past couple of years they’ve done some studies about how multi-tasking, simply put, just doesn’t work. The claim is that our brains can focus on only one thing at a time, really. Oh, sure, we may *think* we’re focusing on several things at once, but in fact our brains are rocketing lickety-split amongst them, bouncing from one to another and, in the process, researchers claim, not doing a good job at any of them.

I believe this–that we’re not doing more than one thing at any nano-second in time–but I also believe that rapid shifting back and forth is possible for some people and that they can do it really well. Whether or not it’s the best way to work, I have no idea. If you’re easily distracted, probably not. But if you’re easily bored, maybe so.

What do you think? With all the things artists have to do, from keeping up with social media to shipping orders to writing proposals, what’s the best way (in your opinion) to get them all done? One at a time, in some sort of sequential order? Or whatever kind of multi-tasking your brain embraces? Let’s talk about it–the ways artists’ brains work is endlessly fascinating.


Ricë also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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2 Responses to To Multi-Task or Not

  1. Jinx says:

    I think its different for everyone Rice. I like to have multiple projects going on because i get bored easy but i only do one thing at a time. Juggling too many things at once just stresses me out and the quality suffers . Whether thats at home on projects or at work trying to answer the phone , wait on inperson customers and get my tasks done for the day. They all suffer

    • Rice Freeman-Zachery says:

      It’s that way for me, too. I would love to talk to someone who can *really* do more than one thing at a time. You know: talk on the phone and read at the same time, or write while listening to a podcast. I know I can’t do it, alas.