October 17, 2020: Multitasking and Productivity… Can They Mix?

Without a word of a lie, I clicked play on the video we were instructed to watch for this blog post, got up from my chair, and started doing the dishes as I listened. I was thirty seconds into the video when I realized, “Oh… This is exactly what this thing is about. Oops.” James Hamblin makes an excellent point when he highlights that he can’t remember the last time he did one thing at a time. Like, truly doing one thing at a time. For example, not scrolling through your phone while watching a movie or listening to someone about a project at work, while writing something down on your own unrelated weekend “to-do” list. I find so often with teaching I’m talking to one child and listening to something else going on in the background or I’m marking assignments and trying to eat my lunch. Sometimes I have two students talking to me at once about different things and I’m listening to both… But am I really listening? Which begs further: does multitasking even exist? When Hamblin noted the concept of Tabless Thursday, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague last year…

I was feverishly trying to send an email, write a paper, and lesson plan. I had two laptops open and papers were scattered everywhere. I asked my colleague how in the world she taught full-time, built a house, mom-ed to a toddler and a newborn, AND completed her graduate studies. She laughed and said, “You just get used to having a hundred tabs open at once literally on your computer and in your brain.”

To any parent who is reading this, YOU’RE DOING AN AMAZING JOB.

“Is the internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?”

This is a tricky question to answer. The internet is definitely a major component of my life that causes a lot of distraction, but it is also the cause of productivity as well. I find I can waste precious time watching silly videos on my phone or reading news articles online, however, the internet also allows me to get tasks done so much faster than without it. For example, making your own teaching resources from scratch before the internet was widely used. My mom used to teach kindergarten, but hasn’t taught for nearly 30 years. When we were cleaning out the basement, I suggested getting rid of some of her hand-made resources that she spent hours of her own time creating. She looked at me like I was crazy. Then I realized, she did not put in all of that time, just to throw those resources out. They aren’t necessarily useful to me and they are somewhat outdated, but everything she ever used with her students was hand-made by her. There was no Teachers Pay Teachers or a quick, little download button in 1985. How in the world did she have time for that? However, after learning a little bit about Penny Zenker, I realized time isn’t the issue here. Zenker highlights that there are four components to productivity:

Purpose

Essentially, this is referring to having a reason for what you are doing that extends beyond benefitting yourself. When this occurs, you gain the feeling of working on something significant.

Language

If you produce negative self-talk, then you will produce negative results. On the flip side of that statement, if you produce positive self talk, you will produce positive results.

Focus

In Zenker’s TedTalk she highlights that people cannot change their circumstances, but people can change the energy of their thoughts and the way we interact with those circumstances. It boils down to using your allotted time in the best way you can.

Physiology

This one may seem like a given, but you need to be healthy in order to be productive. We’ve all gone to work feeling sick or under the weather. Those tend to be the days where we do not accomplish much.

Bearing these four components in mind, yes, I do think the internet has created a lot of distraction and certainly has its downfalls. However, we can’t change that. The internet is here to stay. That means we need to find ways to focus our energy on our goals and find the opportunity in the obstacles presented. In this situation, our obstacle can also be one of our greatest tools.

Reflecting on our presentation this week about Productivity Suites and Presentation Tools, I think the internet can be used to increase productivity once we know how to channel our “focus energy.” Daina, Jocelyn, Shelby, and Allison included this article in their Wakelet, which caught my attention. The article highlights the benefits of modern technology in education, as well as its pitfalls. One of the advantages listed that resonated with me was the development of new teaching methods. I have been researching the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recently for my Content Facilitation Presentation, so naturally, the piece about educational technology and the mention of text-to-speech features caught my eye.

Presentation tools such as Slides, WeVideo, Adobe Spark, etc. do not just benefit your visual learners, but all kinds of learners. Years ago, these interactive presentation tools were not available, which resulted in the creation of learning challenges for many people. Imagine being a teacher or a student and your only mode of presentation was a chalkboard? We’ve certainly come a long way. I was particularly drawn to the Flippity that was implemented by this week’s group. As I was playing with it, I realized this would be perfect for a student in my class. I learned you could make flashcards with this tool and that really had me sold! Can this student in mind use paper flashcards? Well, yes. Does using flash cards on a computer make it a little more engaging? Also, yes. This highlights one of the benefits noted in this article as well. Aside from digital flash cards being more engaging, it is also a way to give one of my grade 4/5’s work that is below grade-level without it being obvious to their peers. On that note, I leave you with this quote that Kalyn in my presentation group stumbled upon:

“For most of us, technology makes things easier. For a person with a disability, it makes things possible.”

Judy Heumann

“Has the internet created a world of ‘multitaskers’ who don’t accomplish as much as they could have without it?”

Multitasking… I honestly don’t think anyone is “good” at multitasking. It leaves a lot of room for error and before you know it, you’ve sent that email to the wrong person and the pot on the stove has over-boiled. Personally, whenever I am in multitasking mode, I usually need to re-evaluate my work and backtrack anyway. So, why do I insist on doing eight things at once? I think it creates the illusion that I am being productive. However, tools like the internet do make multitasking somewhat easier, but nonetheless problematic when it comes to accomplishing many tasks effectively.

Since multitasking doesn’t necessarily increase my effectiveness of completing many tasks at once, I started wondering what were some statistics regarding multitasking. While researching this query, I came across a graphic that sums this up nicely. These are the parts that I connected with:

… I currently have 13 tabs open.
… There’s hope!

None of this really surprised me, but I wouldn’t say consuming media and interacting with technology is a negative thing. However, there needs to be time in everyone’s schedule where we can disconnect and be completely present, as noted in the above graphic. I used to think, “Well, just use your phone less. Who needs to schedule that in?” I’m starting to see now it is important for your mental and physical health to be intentional with disconnecting. We are surrounded by media and technology everywhere we go– school, home, work, etc. Since it is so easily accessible (in some ways), we need to be deliberate when it comes to putting your technology aside.

So… Can Multitasking and Productivity Mix?

Multitasking allows people to start a variety of tasks, but nothing really gets completely finished or finished well. In my experience, there can be some overlap between the two, but I would be lying if I said that my best work happened while trying to do a variety of tasks all at once. I usually get “brain waves” or ideas while multitasking, but those never come to fruition unless I truly focus on only the one idea. On that note, I should probably go close out some of my tabs…

Until next time,

-Leigh

3 thoughts on “October 17, 2020: Multitasking and Productivity… Can They Mix?

  1. Great post Leigh,

    I was quite happy to hear that I was not the only one who did the exact opposite of what we were supposed to do while we watched that video! I ended up having to watch it a second time because I found myself trying to do too many things instead of concentrating on the most important one. I also really appreciated your thoughts regarding the benefits of technology and how “the internet can be used to increase productivity once we know how to channel our focus energy.” This is something that I completely agree with, as the technology we have today affords us far more opportunities to be productive than in the past. We just need to learn self-control and hone our “focus energy” in order to use them efficiently. Technology itself is just a tool, as humans, we need to ensure we are using it responsibly.

    Thanks again for the great read,

    Matt

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Leigh! I really liked your post this week and I also related to it quite a bit. I think as I began the video for this week, I was browsing my email on my phone and I did that thing where I realized I was doing exactly the opposite I was supposed to and slowly put the phone down to watch the rest. I’m not going to lie either, it was difficult to sit and just watch the video even though it was short. I was thinking about all the things I could be doing to be “productive” at the same time. You make some good points about the illusion of multitasking and I agree that it is 100% a teacher thing. I can’t imagine running a classroom only focusing on one thing at a time. The whole place might go up in flames (lol)! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m glad you were able to find some interesting points and resources from our presentation this week!

    Liked by 1 person

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