I am kicking around a new book idea about the need for single-tasking in a world where people sing the praises a bit too loudly about the ability to multi-task.
(But since I kick around new book ideas all the time, it’s probably best just to blog about it and see if the itch is still there to scratch at the end of this post.)
Multi-taking, in the modern world, is something we all do. Talking on the phone while googling an address as someone speaks to you from the other side of the room — come on, how many of us haven’t done that?
And yet, for some reason, white collar employees seem to think that there is merit to functioning like this all the time.
Sure, it produces voluminous work but the truth is, I want quality over quantity. And quality oh-so-very-often is sacrificed in this day and age at the altar of expediency.
With my students, this a growing subject of conversation in my class. (It’s also why I am such a HUGE fan of reading. Reading — particularly reading longer works, like, ahem, real books — is a single-tasking job. One simply cannot read a novel like The Alchemist and google, talk and change songs on your iPod at the same time.
Not that my students don’t try… but the quality of their comprehension will be sacrificed in direct correlation to the amount of attention they willingly divert from the task at hand.
And btw, when I am on the consuming end of the scale — when someone prepares a meal for me, when someone checks my cholesterol by taking a blood sample, when someone valet parks my car — I want them to be single-tasking at the time. I don’t want them talking on the phone while trying to find a vein in my arm. I want their focus… their single-minded focus.
Why? Because single-taskers translate to “better” taskers.
In my own class, one of the ways I greatly improve my students’ writing over the course of a year in English is that I make them concentrate on the small things. The details. The apostrophes, the spelling, the periods at the end of sentences and the such. It might not like sound much but when you see the quality of the work they enter with each year versus the quality of writer they have become by the time they leave, it’s night and day.
Because they concentrate. Because they pay attention. Because I force them to focus and they produce high quality sentences line by line by line.
Being slovenly is disastrous to a crisp thinker. And in the age of txt messages, Facebook, Twitter and so on, just slapping something out is all too easy.
Multi-taskers go a mile wide and an inch deep throughout their careers. Single-taskers go a mile deep… and then they go a mile deep again. They eventually get to breadth as a result of depth — and when all is said and done’ I’d venture to say that it all adds up to a lot more substance when the final tallies are tallied.
Multi-taskers are under the false delusion that they are going someplace quick but in my opinion, it’s intellectual laziness that keeps them flitting from one thing to the next all the time like a moth on red bull.
Single-taskers will cure cancer.
Single-taskers will take green energy to a whole new level.
Single-Taskers Will Rule the World!
And reading is the training camp for single-taskers. In my opinion, letting the red herring of “21rst century skills” undercut deep instruction that demands extended concentration will be a grave mistake. We, in our classrooms today, must overtly recognize this quicksand.
So, is there a possible book here? I think so, if I fleshed it out more, did some research, flavored the whole thing up with anecdotes, provided an 8 Step recipe for Single-Tasking Success, and so on. But do I feel the need to spend a huge amount of time writing this book at the expense of a what could easily be a new work of YA fiction for me? Probably not.
This is why I blog. It allows me to multi-task. (wink-wink.)