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The Multitasking Generation

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The article entitled “The Multitasking Generation” is a must-read for both parents and children particularly in this age when technology has invaded our daily lives.  Author Claudia Wallis discussed the effects of multitasking in a way that is not only easily understood but is supported by experts’ opinions as well.  By using an average American family as example, she was able to make the reader visualize the situations wherein multitasking is done.  Thus, she is better able to drive home her point on the evils of multitasking.

Technology has indeed improved the way of life in many ways, but inevitably, it also attributed to a less productive way of living.  With the advent of technology and their benefits of easier connectivity to information, entertainment and peers, temptations to do something else usually arise.  When multitasking, the more important activities are compromised and their output quality is sacrificed.  Multitasking, by definition, means performing several activities simultaneously.  Activities are done in parallel in an attempt to achieve more efficiency in time and energy.  Because of the easy access to rich information and capabilities of computers and the internet, it can cater to almost any specific interest.  However, multitasking can only reduce the focus of the mind to a certain activity, which, in turn, only causes further delay.

As proven, people would spend more time when they switch from one task to another.  Even though human beings naturally have the capacity to handle many things at once, it still depends on the importance of the activities.  The cost of switching between tasks also increases with their complexity.  Moreover, concentration is always needed to generate thought and maintain the flow of ideas.

By dividing one’s attention to many things all at once instead of doing only one at a time, more time is needed to adjust to the new task, and another (and unnecessary) set of time to get back and adjust to the half-baked jobs.  Resuming an interrupted task consumes time that could have been spent more wisely when used properly, in an organized manner.  The longer (and more frequent) the interval of interruption of a task is, the more difficult it is to remember the previous ideas.

Multitasking decreases the overall productivity of a person instead of increasing it.  It only causes losing the train of thought, the lack of concentration, stress, and forgetfulness.  Too much stress and the lack of focus also degrade learning, making a person who habitually performs multitasking ineffective in absorbing new ideas. The habit of dividing one’s attention to many small activities has significant implications on how young people learn, reason, socialize, do creative work and understand the world (Wallis, C., 2006).

In addition, switching goals frequently consumes unnecessary time and energy.  Cramming is not always effective, and the appropriate way to improve information retention on memory is to pay attention.  When the focus is divided, the quality of work declines and thus it is more prone to error, which consumes additional time and stress.  Therefore, in reality, it is a decrease in efficiency instead of an increase. Habitual multitasking may bring the brain to a state of overexcitement thus making it difficult for a person to focus on something even when he wants to (Wallis, C., 2006).

Considering the effects of multitasking, it is possible to consume a lot of time while not finishing anything or finishing several with less quality.  Taking into account all the effects mentioned in the Time Magazine article, “The Multitasking Generation” by Claudia Wallis, multitasking only defeats its purpose of saving time while maintaining quality.  However, despite all the factors that degrade the quality of work when multitasked, multitasking is still a myth that many believe and do until now even though studies have proven that task scheduling is still more effective and efficient.

To achieve quality while spending the least time possible, focus is still the key to quality output.  Setting priorities and following them strictly can help clear the mind and maximize available time.  The time spent for an activity can even be estimated more precisely when other activities are set aside for a while.

Using a notepad (instead of just memorizing) can also help by listing all the errands, avoiding the temptations of tackling less urgent/important items when priorities must be dealt with.  This way, leisure time can be increased and enjoyed more.  After all, “work hard, play hard” (a description associated with many successful people) is more effective and efficient than “mixing business with pleasure.”

It is very important for parents and teachers to teach kids, preferably by example, that it’s essential to occasionally slow down, unplug and take time to think about something for a while. (Wallis, C., 2006).  After all, the human brain needs to relax and recharge in order to prevent a breakdown.


Wallis, C. (March 19, 2006).  The Multitasking Generation.  Time.  Retrieved October 8, 2006 from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1174696,00.html

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