Saturday, August 9, 2014

Multitasking: The Demise of Our Culture

I've said it for as long as I can remember: the only people who have any business multitasking are bartenders and waiters. Everyone else is just screwing up.

I still believe that.

Bartenders and waiters must multitask if they are to be any good at their jobs. As a bartender, you've got to be able to make several drinks at once, hear the next order coming in, acknowledge the new folks walking through the door, let them know you'll be "right with you", and then....deliver drinks, pick up empties, take more orders, fill orders for your waiters, and then....all over again. It ain't easy if you don't have the ability to focus. I know this because I was a bartender for many years. And I was a damned good one.

Waiters are pretty much in the same boat; only with slightly different tasks. But overall, it's the same deal. You've got to have a good memory, fantastic focus, and, if you want to make any kind of decent money, a terrific personality. You can't let the Cranky Pants get you down. You can't let the temperamental chefs fuck with your flow. You must must must stay calm, keep smiling, and remember every word, request, new seating, what's coming, what's done, and keep 'em all happy while you're doing all that. Again, not even close to "easy". Unless you're built for it.

As for all the rest, near as I can tell, if you're trying to do more than one thing at a time, you are more than likely doing every one of those tasks half-assed. People like to think they can multitask well, but mostly...they aren't even close to good at it. And there's a very good reason for this:

Your brain just isn't wired for focusing on more than one thing at a time.


How bartenders and waiters can do what they do, especially if they're really good at it, defies physiology. It really does. I'm not going to cite all the hundreds of proofs there on the matter, (you can look it up yerself if'n you don't believe me; and don't bother with the critique of those spellings. It's all on purpose.), but you can believe that I've done my homework on the subject. Why?, you ask? (okay.. maybe you didn't ask; I'm going to tell you anyway.) Because I really dislike when I read someone's "opinion" on a matter, and then find out that it was just that: an opinion. I prefer to read stuff that is based on facts, regardless of how fleeting said facts may be. In any case, I'm saying that I've done my homework on this particular subject and the proof is in the pudding:

Your brain just isn't wired for multitasking.

So then...why does everyone continually insist on it? Why do so many employers insist on it? Why, for Pete's sake, do we continue to argue that it can be done when the vast majority of us have experienced the downside of anyone's attempts?

For instance: call any one of a million large companies to get assistance and you will most likely be met with an automated response that will ask where you want to go, who you want to speak with, what your issue is, who you are, where you live, what your account number is, etc., etc.., etc....and then...put you on hold. Then, you get to wait for anywhere from five to forty-five minutes (ever tried calling the DMV???) listening to the most awful Muzak on the planet. All the while you're on hold, there are various other recordings that do their best to direct you to their website, or sell you something, or tell you (for the eightieth time) that "someone will be with you shortly", or, my personal favorite....simply disconnect the call.


If and when you finally get a "real person", the first thing they do is ask you all the same shit you were asked by the RoboVoice at the beginning of the call. And then....they put you on hold. Again. By the time they get back to you, if you haven't thrown the phone out the window by then, you've forgotten what the hell you were calling for. Why? Because while you waited you cleaned out your closets, washed the kitchen floor, bathed the dog, watered your plants, and wrote the first five chapters of your next book. How the hell should I know why I called? Didn't I tell you that already?

Admittedly, that may not be the best analogy. I got a little carried away. As I am prone to do when I am passionate about something. But this also proves my point: whilst I was ranting, I got lost in the rant and allowed my train of thought to go where it wanted. Akin to trying to do more than one thing at once. I was trying to make a point, then tell you a story to prove the point, then...I got distracted by the story.

{I have not been a bartender OR a waiter for more than a decade. Those skills are long lost. Thank the gods!}

Anyway, the proof is all around us. Customer Service in the majority of businesses is a joke. The "quality" of goods/products we buy these days is of the poorest quality. The education system in the U.S. is the worst in history. Our kids are leaving high school and can't read, let alone build a sentence properly. They can't do simple math. Or figure out logic problems. Our teachers are being blamed but the real reason for this sad state of affairs is that they've got too many kids and not enough tools. They, too, are being demanded to multitask at a rate that would flat out kill the weakest humans. There are countless examples of this deadly social phenomenon. And if we don't do something about it soon, we're going to lose the ability to do anything well...including think. You see, it turns out that multitasking actually takes on toll on the intellect.


Go figure.

Short of continuing this rant, I must find a way to come 'round to the Joy part. Because, after all, that is the primary reason for this Blog (remember?!) And were I to leave it to rest now, you'd be left in the lurch. Where the hell is she going? What happened to Joy is a CHOICE?!

So here it is:

We would be wise to understand that multitasking is taking its toll on our culture and our brains. We would be wise to embrace SINGLEtasking, if we are to find the quality in our lives that is so sorely missing. We can enjoy and even embrace the technology that allows us to do more than one thing at once, but that same technology would serve us even better if we were to use it with focus. Instead of opening ten tabs at a time, how about just one? How about close FaceBook and Twitter and Instagram and eBay while you're looking for the information you need to be an informed buyer before you lay down thousands of dollars on that dandy new car you've been wanting? Or maybe get off the Internet entirely while you open your Word software and write a letter to your sweet old Auntie. Perhaps you could even brave an entire day without getting online. {Take a breath here, Darlin'. It's just a suggestion. No need to panic.} Really though...when was the last time you spent an entire day OFF the Internet? Or your Smartphone? Or your Tablet? How do you suppose your Life might benefit from actually being HERE for a day, instead of flitting about Cyberspace every freakin' waking minute?

The Joy you get to choose here is using technology without having it run your Life. Spend some time outside. In the sunshine. With the trees and the birds and the wind blowing through your hair. Take a walk. Sit on the beach and watch the waves roll in. Stroll down the shore and pick up some shells. You know. Stuff we used to do before we had our heads buried in a screen, taking "Selfies" and telling the world every flippin' detail of our lives. Remember that?

Therein lies the Joyful Choice {should you choose to....}


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