Faith Salie: Multitasking Good, Bad At Same Time

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Think you can do it all . . . all at once? Contributor Faith Salie suggests maybe you CAN'T:

There's been a lot of negative talk about multitasking lately.

Excuse me, I'm talking to you . . . yes, you! The one who's sort of watching this but also Googling your horoscope, eating bacon, and texting your mother-in-law about where Thanksgiving will be this year.

Please. Focus. I'll make this quick.

Look, you've got multitasking company: All the cool kids are doing it. But mounting research shows that multitasking is multiply messy. It makes us more stressed and less efficient; it compromises our creativity and our human interactions. "Not tonight, honey; I've got a Blackberry."

It's also changing our brains: even after we've stopped doing five things at once, we're still unfocused. Our brains have been rewired to crave multiple stimulations.

In fact, scientists liken our multitasking mania to other addictive behaviors. There's AA . . . maybe there could be MA, Multitaskers Anonymous? You know how AA's motto is "one day at a time"? Well MA's could be "one thing at a time."

And, no, the Twelve Steps program can't be shortened to six by doing a couple of them at once (even if your smartphone has a Serenity app).

There's rude multitasking, like the woman who was clipping her toenails on the train the other day.

There's mindless multitasking, like listening to your friend on the phone describe her wedding dress while you're tweaking your online dating profile.

Then there's egregious multitasking, like hiking the Appalachian Trail while you're in charge of a state.

Now before we all pledge to try some monotasking, let's agree to preserve a few kinds of multitasking, like singing and dancing at the same time. That's a tried and true combo.

Rubbing my feet while we chat? Totally fine.

Exercising while watching TV? Very good call. I'd like you to drop and give me twenty right now, but I still want eyes up here.

I often pray while I'm trying on tight jeans.

Reading Star Magazine while getting your nails done. (That's multi-basking . . . and it's really the only way to keep up with the Kardashians).

Knitting whenever … as long as you're not driving.

And my father used to multitask by "resting his eyes" during the homily in church. Now that I'm old enough to understand what "resting your eyes" means, I can get behind that.

Hey, my pedicure's done, thanks - ooooh, I love that color!

And you'd better check the stove . . . your pancakes are burning.
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