Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Skip the Multi-Tasking


Star fish can coordinate 5 arms but can they walk and eat shrimp at the same time?

Starfish and octopi are blessed with more than two arms but they are genetically engineered to be able to coordinate those multiple limbs with grace and impact but I'm not sure about what happens when they try to walk, capture food and eat all at the same time.   The original reference to multi-tasking must be the old joke about "not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time." Today it would be hard to find anyone who at one time or another doesn't try to do several things all at once.  It seems people worldwide have embraced the concept of multi-tasking.

I suppose there are things that we can do simultaneously but I don't think you can make your best art or your best art decisions while watching TV,  talking on the phone, dealing with your children or jumping on and off your computer every 5 minutes.  

Multi-tasking is a word which came into usage relating to computers being able to do multiple operations simultaneously.  Guess what, according to what I've read they don't really function that way.  Rather they rotate the jobs very quickly and only appears that all work is happening at once. 

I recently found myself committing the last of those "sins"listed above, on the computer - off the computer.  Check mail, check FB, look at Pinterest etc.  At some point I realized that I was wasting a lot of time.  I also realized that it was a way to avoid focusing on my work and making some hard decisions.

For about 24 hours I considered moving my computer to another spot in my house, out of my studio, but the only other place was in an upstairs room where I seldom go.  This is when I had the "blinding realization" that I just needed to exercise some self control.  Is it really necessary to look up every word that I don't know the minute I think of it??? Do I really need to investigate every idea that crosses my mind the second it appears???  I know people who sit in front of the TV and research the details of stories that come on the tube for entire evenings!  Makes me tired.

OK, the web is wonderful.  I love the direct line to world information but getting back to the point of this story, when you are in your studio you need to be present.  It isn't enough to just be there physically, you have to be engaged and focused on what you are doing in order to really see all the opportunities that are in front of you and make all the big and small decisions that are required.

I decided not to move my computer but to develop a general "schedule".  I come in, check my email, read a couple of blogs, do any business that is required and then it is either cut off or I may listen to music. Later in the morning I will check my email again and so it goes.  Sometimes, I can't even take the music.  I just want blissful silence.  On those days there is no need for music.

So forget about that "badge" you're been working on for Best Multi-tasker.  Think about the things in your life that interfere with your being able to concentrate on your work.  You can't always control everything but you might be able to free up your mind-space even if slightly. 


***My friend Judy Kirpich has a nice blog: http://unmultitasking.blogspot.com/ where she shares her life and her work.  Hope you'll check it out.

***Remember the days where it was necessary to go to the library to do research.***

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9 comments:

  1. you're absolutely right!

    I like to watch trash TV while I sew, and don't even realize that it's there, but when I'm making decisions I have to turn it off. Even the limited brainpower needed to follow Law & Order the fifth time you've seen that episode is a distraction from serious composition or problem-solving.

    Self-control is hard, even for people as smart, experienced and mature as we are. Think how hard it is for kids to learn it, with so many more distractions at their fingertips.

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    1. Loved your comment about brain power. I often feel I'm having a "brown-out". I don't watch (or listen) to TV as you described but today I am adding a label and sleeve to a new piece so I'm listening to a book but I can not do this when creating a work.

      As for the kids....well I just don't know. There's no going back to pre-technology but I do believe that much of it is a major distraction. Thanks Kathy!

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  2. Great post, and good reinforcement for me. Kathy, so true- I often wonder how "kids these days" can cope. I keep the computer far from the studio, so it's not possible to jump on and off, but I have to get myself OFF the computer and INTO the studio... I think I'll do that right now, thanks for the nudge.

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    1. Hi Sharon, thanks for commenting. Isn't it amazing how addictive the computer is! Hope you had a good day in the studio.

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  3. I DO so remember the days of sitting in the library, using the card catalog,.. and not talking with someone on the phone as they google to find instantaneous answers to my every query (yes, I have some friends that actually do that---)

    Happy Spring. xo

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    1. So funny you mention the library...bastion of research and quiet. Not now. It is as you described. Everyone is on the phone, talking, eating and looking for the quick "answer". I often prefer the quick answer but I must confess that I believe there is something to having to dig just a little to uncover the information we seek. Thank you ParisMaddy.

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  4. Thank you for writing this post. I find that I do as you stated, check emails in the morning, look at some blogs and then get on to the work at hand. I do listen to books and to music and agree that sometimes blissful silence is the best way to solve self-imposed problems while working. I am glad that I do have the ability to turn off the world and that I do remember what it was like to not have instant access to data.

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  5. This is timely and good advice for me as I often struggle with what I call "monkey brain" -- my mind and body bouncing from one thing to the other. Today, I pledge to focus on the work and minimize the distractions.

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    1. Hi Sandra. I loved your use of "monkey brain" to describe how our brains are constantly doing what they were designed to do....think. Sometimes people aren't aware of this function of the brain until perhaps they decide to learn to meditate. Meditation brings you face to face with this physiological fact. I find that one of the best ways for me to stop the monkey brain chatter is to do as you described, focus on my work and minimize the distractions including music, tv, phone, or computer. Thank you Sandra.
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