Opinion Columnists

Monday 26 August 2019

Multi-task? Not me. One thing at a time

Reading on holidays is a wonderful experience.
Reading on holidays is a wonderful experience.

John Masterson

Women are supposed to be wonderful at multi-tasking, but I am beginning to doubt it. I wonder is the human brain capable of multi-tasking at all. I watch my attention switch from one thing to another and the key thing seems to be one thing at a time.

We all know that using the phone in the car is a great recipe for making an appointment with the Grim Reaper, and possibly taking a few innocent motorists or pedestrians with us. I did what the law requires and put Bluetooth in the car. The law does not allow you to touch the phone, but there is no need. I just say 'yes' or 'no' when the phone rings, and if I want to ring anyone I say their name and bingo, the phone obeys me. I have now got rid of the Bluetooth.

I am sure many of you have had the same experience as me. I am driving along the motorway heading home and the phone rings. I have a chat for a few minutes and then turn my full attention back to the road. And I have no idea where I am. On one occasion I missed my exit, but usually I am on automatic pilot enough to get that right. I am giving the appearance of multi-tasking but I am not doing it well, and if a dog or a child ran out in front of me, I am certain I would not react as fast as if I was not on the totally legal hands-free phone.

I read a lot. The pleasure of the words creating pictures is one reason why I don't go to see the film of the book. I prefer my own pictures. Reading on holidays is a wonderful experience because you get totally absorbed and create a new world in the imagination. But reading during the normal working week, I regularly find my focus wandering to work issues. I turn over a page and realise I have been reading words but cannot remember a thing on the page I have just read.

Any golfer will tell you of that irrelevant thought that pops into their mind during their back swing and the inevitable result. The ball sails into a lake as you realise your mind was gone AWOL. You can either focus. Or multi-task. Not both.

I gave up watching TV with the phone by my side. The temptation to look at some Twitter rubbish is removed and the phone call can wait. I notice more people these days not answering their mobile and returning the call later. I suspect they are doing the same as me. Or maybe my popularity is waning.

Meals are a real challenge. There is the food to taste, conversation to enjoy and wine to imbibe. Asked the next day about how the meal went, I know I am incapable of remembering all three aspects of the dinner. If there has been a good conversation, I am quite likely to have totally forgotten what I ate. Maybe "remember" is the wrong word as I may not have even taken it in to begin with.

Maybe some people can multi-task. But this mere man cannot.

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