Commentary

Learning to (multi)task

I was hiding.

In an effort to complete my master's thesis, I took a sabbatical from most of the outside world during most of the last semester. Sure, I caught the important news events from CNN.com or NYTimes.com. I also used The Daily Show and Colbert Report as entertainment during my dinner hours. Beyond that, I've left a few parts of my life on pause: I have a hideously large Google Reader "unread" count... I haven't blogged as much for this, or a few other outlets, as I would have liked... I have gigs of photos still waiting to be uploaded to Facebook.

The hiding was necessary. A comment I made during my oral defense made me chuckle: I found out I truly can't multitask. In the weekends at the library - the weekdays were too busy with class and work to achieve any real progress on the thesis - I found myself locked in a windowless room with a friend to keep me company. (He, too, was working on a large class project.) I disabled Digsby. I closed Outlook to avoid the pop-ups. I closed Gmail/GChat. I left the cell phone out of reach, only pausing to text message after major progress in a chapter or research chunk.

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It worked. And it also made me fully aware of how easily I waste time if I'm not focused in. Some may call this a downfall of work ethic, but admitting there's a problem is the first step to recovery, eh?

Now I'm trying to push this theory to my professional work. I'm closing Outlook, leaving Digsby closed and resorting to only GChat, as that's what my coworkers use mostly. I really should disable the Outlook mail notifications, but I feel as if a small part of me will die when I do that. Some of the software I use for work requires maximum system resources, so this process of closing programs is a default during these times. It's fascinating how fast something gets done without that infamous IM chirp or Outlook ding every few minutes. It's not that I wasn't being productive before - it's just I'm hella more so now.

Yes, we've seen all the random articles and blogs about time management techniques and all that other jazz.. I don't intend to be breaking any news here with my thoughts. This is really for anyone out there who keeps desiring to master concentration, but always forgets to concentrate on doing so.

Give it a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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