Keeping all the balls in the air is a bit of a juggling act

Border Mail Column – Wednesday 4 April 2012

It’s 9am and I’ve already checked my email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, answered a number of text messages and scanned the online version of The Age.

Later today I will put on my lecturing hat for marketing students at CSU and tomorrow it’s back to my two-day-a-week job where I will write, perhaps do some design work and deal with whatever else comes up.

The day after I will put on a TAFE teacher’s hat for the English studies class I teach.

The day after that is Good Friday; the start of the Easter break and the chance to completely kick back and enjoy some time with my visiting family including my now seven month old grandson.

In short, I will be taking a break from the multi-tasking and maybe even disconnect from the electronic world for a few days.

For the past four and a half years I’ve had at least three jobs on the go at once, which with my consultancy background I manage quite well.

Not confined to a nine-to-five existence, I can be flexible in my approach as to when I work, but that can also mean no defined end of the workday or weekend.

There are times too when I wonder if I am serving my employers as effectively as I can, but for many people employed full-time maybe life is not much different to this.

When I last had a full-time job the delineation between work and home was clear, but there were definitely signs that it was becoming increasingly difficult to switch off when not at work.

I find now that I need to discipline myself and not check each day the work emails on the iPhone or log in to the other two email accounts.

In short, I have set some boundaries in order to keep a level of sanity in my life, but can only wonder what it is like now, especially for working parents, with the demands of job and school and being constantly plugged in, and ask is it possible to multitask and still be productive?

More and more the research is telling us no; multitasking isn’t good for our brains or our bodies, however, there are times we need to multitask to complete one task.

For example when we drive we go through a series of tasks that enable us to change gears, steer, check our mirrors to change lanes or perform other manoeuvres including avoiding an accident.

But, add one more task to that and increasingly this is talking or texting on mobile phones, and the consequences can be deadly.

In their recently released book, Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life: Train Your Brain to Get More Done in Less Time, authors Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore suggest instead of trying to do several things at once, and often none of them well, we should ‘set shift’ by consciously and completely shifting our attention from one task to the next.

We should unitask rather than multitask which the authors say doesn’t work.

If we give our full attention to what we are doing, it will help us to do it better, with more creativity and fewer mistakes.

Set shifting is a sign of brain fitness and agility, say the authors, and uses our brain’s innate organisational power and will make our lives ‘less stressful, more productive and rewarding.’

I’m going to experiment with some un-itasking over the Easter break by giving my full attention to the eating of hot cross buns and then to chocolate eggs.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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About Robyne Young

Writer, creative writing teacher, editor, columnist. Literary lover. Short story collections, The Only Constant and The Basket and the Briefcase available via website.
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