Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here's a New Idea: Monotasking

(This is actaully an article I wrote a couple of years ago, pre-blog-time, and posted to my Cox Productions site. It is still searchable on the Web!)

The term multitasking dates back to the 1960s and is defined as “the concurrent performance of several jobs by a computer.” Sometime more recently we humans took on this process and, in an effort to makes our lives run more efficiently, started multitasking. We are proud that we can perform like a computer.

Talking on a cell phone is a common contributor to multitasking, and it’s easy to do. Anyone who has one is likely to use it without thinking twice. Sometimes three women will be walking down the street together but two are on their phones. The third has the courtesy (or lack of popularity) not to be on the phone, but has no one to talk to. Why don’t they talk to each other?

Recently, I went into a clothing store to shop for a pair of yoga pants and noticed that I was not among the majority of shoppers, those browsing while talking on the phone. Isn’t it hard enough to find what you want and in your size? Later the same day in a grocery store I overheard one side of a conversation featuring details of a fibroid tumor operation. Didn’t make me feel like planning menus.

Other abuses in multitasking are drivers performing other tasks like applying makeup or eating fast food, children playing hand-held games while spending quality time with their parents, or families watching movies while driving through attractive countryside. There are things to see outside of a car window; even graffiti and other drivers can be interesting.

Multitasking can even be dangerous! It occurred to me how unaware we are of surroundings, when I saw a report about safety awareness for women, suggesting that we not walk in a deserted parking garage while talking on a cell phone. And how many times have we all concluded a phone conversation in the car and realized we didn’t even remember driving?

The deadline for writing my book, “Photo Styling, How to Build Your Career and Succeed,” was a short five months. When writing on the computer or proofreading printed pages I went into another world where interruptions were very jarring. If someone asked me a question, the words sounded alien. But I was used to it - the work involved in styling fashions and products for photography takes concentration. When I’m at my computer processing stock photographs in Photoshop I go into a “zone,” and don’t want to stop and do anything else (especially paying bills!) until I’m done.

I am tired of the pace of multitasking. It feels good to do one thing at a time and know it's being done well. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old person, I propose the concept of monotasking. We should all find the time to try it - but not while doing anything else.

About the Author
Susan Linnet Cox is the author of “Photo Styling, How to Build Your Career and Succeed” a comprehensive career manual for photo stylists, published by Allworth Press, She also teaches career workshops through her site

You have permission to publish this article electronically or in print, free of charge, provided the bylines are included. A courtesy copy of your publication would be appreciated.

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