Myth of Multitasking


Question: Is it just me, or is there too much going on?

I have to vent about the modern high-tech, startup expectation that everyone can wear many hats and stay connected to the team 24-7 via chat, texting, Skype, Google Docs. There are so many interruptions that it’s impossible to focus on any one task for more than 5 minutes at a time.

The new global workplace means you can’t ever go to sleep or clock out. If you get an email from China at 3am, you’re supposed to get out of bed (or pull out, don’t ask if you don’t understand) and respond right away or the world will stop turning. Not only this, you’re supposed to be chipper and excited about it!

Everyone’s in these giant open offices with no privacy, sound barriers, or personal space for more than a pencil or two. I agree that co-location speeds development, but sometimes it’s like living in a transit hub where everyone’s shouting at you and around you, all the time.

The cost is that no one can remember anything or concentrate on complex tasks. And yes, even in Agile or nimble environments, there are complex tasks that take longer than 5 minutes to complete. If you’re interrupted, the chain breaks and you have to start all over again. The result is that everyone’s got the attention span of a gnat.

The myth is that all this is PREFERRED and an efficient way to work. It’s not. It’s sometimes necessary for reasons of expediency or cost containment, but no one wants to admit that, so they say “We’ve invented a whole new global workplace!” instead.

Writers in general are more introverted. They have to look at the bigger picture and connect the dots together. There’s no way you can do this in a fragmented setting with no control over your surroundings.

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