Take note, multitaskers: it s Single-Tasking Day

Feb 19, 2013
As a culture, we tend to pride ourselves on the ability to multitask. We even boast about busyness as if it’s a badge of honor. The fact of the matter is—as proven by countless scientific studies—multitasking is not always the most efficient way to work. Sure, we want the ability to do multiple things at once, and to do them all well, but in reality, our finite supply of energy and attention is much better spent on one task at a time. February 19th marks “Single-Tasking Day”. As a self-proclaimed multitasker, the mere idea of single-tasking is daunting. In fact, one of my greatest challenges—and not just in the workplace—is spending an uninterrupted chunk of time focused on just one task. While cooking dinner I find myself catching up on phone calls; while watching TV, I find myself reaching for my phone so I can skim news headlines and troll social media sites. Single-Tasking Day definitely got me thinking: when it comes to multitasking, how does it affect reading? One of the best parts of reading is the ability to get lost completely in a story—to be so thoroughly absorbed that you forget the world around you even exists. Being in the middle of a great book counteracts my desire to multitask. After all, why would I want to do anything but read if I’m totally engrossed in the story? The only exception—at least for me—is if I multitask by reading at the gym. Am I optimizing my workout and pushing myself as hard as possible? No. Am I completely appreciating the author’s every word under that fluorescent lighting, surrounded by the hum of workout equipment? Probably not. But if reading makes me enjoy working out, and working out gives me an extra hour a day to read, then what’s the problem with multitasking? Then there’s the question of what happens when your reading habits inherently involve multitasking. Some people claim to get bored when reading only one book at a time, and find that switching back and forth between titles keeps them engaged. Do you prefer to read several books at once? Maybe you have one going for book club, one that you keep in your bag for the commute to and from work, and one that you keep on your nightstand to read before bed. Or maybe it’s a matter of format preference and you like to always be reading a print book and an ebook. Regardless of format, I find that I like to finish what I start; when I’m in the middle of two books at once, it’s definitely harder to remember where I left off. So, in honor of Single-Tasking Day, I think I’ll quiet my multitasking urges and embrace my inner single-tasker, carving out one uninterrupted hour for myself where I do nothing but to enjoy my book. How about you, OOM readers? When it comes to reading, are you a multitasker? Be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below! Photo via goldberg