Nowadays, a lot of people like to think they are proficient at multitasking. In these iMod times there is a certain cultural cachet associated with the ability to do more than one thing at once. However, design and interface expert Aza Raskin suggets that what you are actually doing when you are multitasking is merely cycling through tasks in quick succession – which he warns comes at the risk of losing your train of thought and productivity. When we do achieve two tasks at the same time, its because one of them is automatic, that is, we are habituated to it:
We can talk on a cell phone while driving to work, and we can compose complex sentences while typing. But, if you stop to reflect on it, you can only do those things at the same time because at least one of them is automatic. In the first case driving is automatic, and in the second case typing is automatic. You’ve done them so often that you’ve habituated to them: doing them doesn’t require any thinking. Can you still talk on your cell phone while driving through a rainstorm on unfamiliar roads? Would you still be able to concentrate on writing if you had just switched to a Dvorak keyboard? I didn’t think so.
In both cases the extreme situation frustrates your habits and forces you to actively think about what you are doing at the expense of your other task. When you are thinking about driving safely in adverse conditions, you can’t also hold a conversation. And while you’re searching for the “e” key, you can’t also compose the next line of your sonnet.
Read Aza Raskin’s full article here.