Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Defense of Multitasking

I have read the studies that note that multitasking sometimes (often) equals somewhat reduced performance on all the tasks one is attempting. And in general, I tend to kind of believe that. Lately I have been working on a web-based tool that is a bit slow, so there are a ton of microscopic little downtimes even as I work steadily to complete a complex bit of work in the tool. This is what two hours of my day was like today:

Click ... pause for ten seconds ... type something and click three settings ... click to save ... pause ten seconds more ... click to review the changes ... pause for 13 seconds while the new window opens up ... scan the changes ... close ... click to proceed to the next setting .... pause for ten seconds ...

You get the idea. There is this dead, useless time built into every little step I take with this web-based application. I can't be drafting a document in my ten second and 20 second waits on this thing. I need to keep my brain solidly on the details of setting these thing up, and it's detailed. But not all consuming.

So I multitask on fairly mindless other occupations. I open emails in my other screen just to make sure I'm not missing stuff when I'm head-down. I have some IM windows open and I make small talk with friends. I look at the information about what Pandora is playing for me at any given moment. I cast my eyes out the window and watch my cat consume yet another hapless bird in its entirety.

I don't recommend this for heavy thinking, but if you're keeping your place and working on the web, it might be better to multitask than to sit there wishing the network would just go FASTER.

No comments: