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7 Habits Essential for Tackling the Multitasking Virus | Zen Habits

Posted on: June 10, 2008

I recently wrote an article about a heartbreaking new trend in our classrooms. In Universities throughout the US, students are surfing the internet, shopping online, Facebooking, and emailing while their professors speak to disengaged minds.One can argue that kids have always passed notes, but this semester’s explosion of multi-tasking is on a terrifying scale and teachers nationwide are bereft. The Dean of the University of Chicago Law School just banned surfing during class. Harvard Business School was forced to cut off internet access. Columbia, Barnard and countless others are hustling for solutions, but students demand that their rights are not infringed upon.You can read my account of this crisis and of the dangers of multitasking in this piece on Tim Ferriss’s blog. What I would like to do now is propose some actionable solutions to a cultural problem that extends far beyond our schools.

7 Habits Essential for Tackling the Multitasking Virus | Zen Habits

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3 Responses to "7 Habits Essential for Tackling the Multitasking Virus | Zen Habits"

Multitasking: been there. You think you’ll get more done, because you are touching more “things” at once, but end up with lower quality in all. Focusing on one thing at a time (especially if it’s something you enjoy) actually helps you enjoy it more. I agree with article on that, as well as that it increases creativity.

This is very interesting. I found when I was in college–30 years ago!–that my study time in the evening benefited me more when I was drinking water fairly constantly, and took a walk up and back my hallway about every half-hour. I remember when carrying water bottles became popular, and I started taking one to church. It was amazing how much more of the sermon / study I retained.

Multitasking seems to me to be a way to encourage ADD. My boss tries to “multi-task” though he is a self-confessed victim of ADD. What ends up happening is that his mind is so scattered, hardly anything gets done. He has a list. But instead of reading it and selecting the highest priority items to work on for the day, he just keeps adding to it, and trying to rely on his memory. Thus, items are put on the list more than one time, and he enters the day with no clear idea of his goals. He thinks he is keeping everything in mind, but he can only remember what is right before his face.

I also learned in school that sitting in the front of the classroom does several things for the student: (1) it eliminates many distractions, since most of the students are behind one; (2) it makes one conscious of being under the teacher’s eye, so that one at least pretends to be alert; (3) it puts one in a place where the teacher is likely to remember one, and can create the beginnings of a relationship. There may be others.

Some people seem to learn better or concentrate better when there is music playing. My son thinks he concentrates better if he can pace about. But generally, I don’t see people doing better at learning if there is background noise or movement.

It is definitely true that students learn more from an involved and enthusiastic teacher. My favorite teachers include my math teacher from grades 5 through 9. He taught fractions using cheesecake (how big will your piece be if the cake is divided between 32 students?), and the percentage equation with a story about a girl and her two brothers.

I had no interest in history until I left school. None of my social studies or history teachers really enjoyed the subject. Then I read a novel set in a historical era, that made the real people come alive, and suddenly history was a living thing, about human people with conflicts and feelings, joys and sorrows.

I find myself, occasionally, writing or reading during a sermon. Sometimes the speaker just isn’t approaching the text or the subject in a way that engages me. My preferred sermon style is expository rather than thematic. But even there, some speakers do an expository sermon out of duty, or because they’ve taken it from someone elese’s writings and it’s easier. You can generally tell if they are excited about unpacking the text, or not.

IS there true multitasking?

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