Thursday, October 22, 2009

Multitasking and the Death of My Memory

Just by writing this, I feel that I am letting down women everywhere.

I am a horrible multitasker.

It can be done, but as I was standing at the refrigerator getting a glass of water while trying to empty the coffee pot of any unused portion, I realized that I was sliding into the splits on my kitchen floor. Ironically, I maintained that I had it under control as my glass of water ran over and I spilled the coffee trying to right myself in front of the coffee pot. It got me thinking.

Recently, I was at Women of Faith, where Marcus Buckingham spoke. In his book, Find Your Strongest Life, he asserts that multi-tasking is a myth. He says, “…the average worker’s functioning IQ drops ten points when multitasking, more than double the four-point drop that occurs when someone smoking marijuana. (The analogy the researchers used is that a ten-point drop in IQ is equivalent to missing one night of sleep).”


I was with a dear old friend of mine, yesterday morning. Yep. I visited, instead of blogging. We went to high school together and the stories flowed. I found that they were mostly one-sided. He would tell something and I would tell him that I vaguely recalled it, but I have a horrible memory for those kinds of things.

The truth is that I have a horrible memory for a lot of things. My husband comes home at night and asks me about my day. I freeze. I have to work to recall what happened to me.

A woman’s life, my life specifically, lends itself to this multitasking lifestyle. So many things happen around us that we find minutes and days passing which are marked by the memory of enduring simultaneous tasks, and not specific events. Memories of layered processes are being formed with nothing remarkable to hold on to. I guess that we need those 10 IQ points for the remarkable.

I also need those 10 IQ points to keep from breaking glasses, burning food in the toaster oven, forgetting about things on the stove, leaving the water running in the bathroom, accidentally cutting myself, and getting frustrated because everything needs me at once. It doesn’t. I just create an immediate environment, where I feel like I will buy myself five minutes through simultaneous tasking. It is never true.

One of the greatest aids in analyzing my tendency to multitask and lose valuable life moments is also something that I mentioned in an earlier post. I have started running (click here for the gory details), well, let’s call it light jogging. The comment that I hear from people who hate running is, “It is so boring”. The truth is that it is not boring, but it requires that you entertain yourself.

It has really challenged me, because when you are running you have to think about something, besides hating it, to get it done. Then there is a point that you reach where you no longer think about not thinking about it. You just go somewhere else where your brain can empty itself and think one thought at a time. Revolutionary, I know! It gives a point of reference for the rest of my day.

I think that I have been urged to singleness of thought by this exercise. I am alone, with no distractions but a little worship music. It is easier to accomplish a run if I submit to the action, rather than count the seconds left in my miles. I want to transfer this mentality to my daily life. I want to honor the task at hand and move quietly from one to the next. Living in this moment and moving to the next with the possibility of remembering something usually lost in the shuffle. Think of conversations that could benefit from those 10 IQ points.

There are women, with whom I have spoken, who express real concerns about prayer time. To many women, quieting the mind for prayer is another task to endure. Does anyone else have trouble unwinding?

I am convinced that this lifestyle affects our quiet times. Part of saying no to multitasking is devoting all attention to one task. When we sit before God we twitch, make the grocery list, make mental trails, and work ourselves into a tizzy because we feel that we are dishonoring God by our brain in motion.

Prayer requires one line of thought. Reading the word becomes a conversation with the Spirit when there is one line of thought. When my life goes haywire, this is where I see the difference. If I can sit down and rest in the word and rest in prayer, it is a good day.

These are just some thoughts shared with the knowledge that there are other multi-taskers out there. I would love to know how you combat this tendency to spread yourself over the tasks of the day.

Or, I guess that I should start by asking the question, are you combating it? Leave me a note in the comment section, and let me know how you deal with multitasking.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely dying over your last tweet... Normally, I recharge on weekends with do-nothing time with my husband, but the last four weekends, we've had people in our house, interrupting our rest time, pushing weekend duties into the weekdays. I'm not holding up so well. I should take up running. Ha ha. At 32 weeks pregnant. Does marathon house-cleaning count for brain-emptying?


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