Welcome!

.NET Authors: Pat Romanski, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, ChandraShekar Dattatreya, Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Jim Kaskade

Related Topics: Web 2.0, Java, XML, SOA & WOA, .NET

Web 2.0: Blog Post

Cracking the Myth of Effective Multitasking

Why many people may not fully understand their potential or limitations in accomplishing more than one task

It was only fairly recently that I cracked the myth of multitasking, and found an attitude toward it that I am comfortable with.

These days, I see it this way. A housewife (if you'll forgive the 1950s stereotype that follows - but the idea of the multitasking superwoman is perfect for this purpose) needs to cook dinner, tidy up the lounge of toys and change a nappy. She leaves some sauce simmering on the stove, picks up a couple of soft toys and throws them in the toy chest, then takes care of the baby's nappy. She returns child to crib, washes her hands, picks up the books that were on the floor and slides them back into the bookshelf. She returns to the stove, adds some basil, reduces the heat and goes to answer the doorbell. This is the classic stereotype of multitasking. That skill, much maligned by the stereotype useless male - unable to sit upright and breath in and out at the same time - that results in incredible productivity.

But this is not really multitasking.

At no stage was the housewife engaged in two tasks at once, nor should she have been. True multitasking would have involved changing the nappy, while using the baby's legs to stir the sauce and kicking the toys and books one by one toward the place they were supposed to go. The result? Burned feet, nappies on the stove, books nowhere near the bookshelf and a lot of mess to clean up.

Thus stands the multitasking myth. Because what you're really talking about is not the ability to complete multiple tasks at once, but the ability to switch between tasks effectively, without hindering the effectiveness of your contribution to any of them. This is what you should focus on improving if you want to be a multitasker. How can you flip between jobs productively? Your working routine is bound to require it; nobody's working day ever allows them to focus on one thing only, but they are seldom required to actually do two things at once.

So multitasking remains one of the biggest myths in the modern workplace, whether that work place is an office, a construction site or a household.

That's not to say it doesn't exist, or that it can't be done. There are number of ways that you can multitask effectively, and putting some thought into structuring your day to allow for these real examples of multitasking is what will help to make you more efficient.

Here are a few things you can do that constitute real multitasking.

Schedule phone conversations when you're driving (hands free please.)
My car has some clever green tooth or blue eye thing that means I receive calls from a button on my steering wheel. But a $10 earpiece has much the same effect.If you have an hour long commute involving traffic (and if you're working on engineering jobs in Houston for example, I know you do) you can make it work for you. It doesn't have to be business; it can be anything that will save you time earlier or later in the day. Sit on hold with whichever bank is currently abusing your custom. Call Mom. If it's something you would have to find other time to do otherwise, it's saving you time.  (Make sure you are complying with all legal responsibilities for safety reasons.)

Combine Audiobooks with basic physical tasks
Again, the car is good. But so is the bath, the kitchen while you're cooking dinner (one of my responsibilities at our place - who's 1950's now?) or the treadmill at the gym. You don't have to read, to get that book read. It was a big day for me when I realized that iPods weren't just for music. Audiobooks (that you pay for) or podcasts (that you don't) offer a vast range of opportunities to learn and develop during dead time, like when you're on the stationary bike, or boiling the water for the pasta.

Combine Conference Calls with almost anything

Be honest. A good number of conference calls require less than active participation. If I find myself on one of those calls, I look for the mute button and for something else to do. If I'm in my office at home, I'll do a wash load or clean the kitchen. The combination of mindless physical task and passive mental task is a good one. You should be careful not to try anything too engaging. It's difficult to build a PowerPoint presentation or write a detailed e-mail and stay on top of the subject matter of a conference call, even if you're not talking very often. You need to pay attention, but a physical task that requires no thought should allow that.

Multitasking can only be effectively achieved with the right balance of mindless physical tasks and stationary mental ones. As soon as anything blurs the lines on that distinction, you're in trouble. Beware overreaching. I suggest you take my word for the fact that stationary bikes and food preparation are not a good match. Weddings and audiobooks can also result in injuries of a different kind. Throughout this process, one must pay attention to what is potentially dangerous, or just plain inappropriate. It's easy to offend people if they should get the impression they don't have your full attention.

At the end of the day, which task you are neglecting, and which you are diligently carrying out is all a matter of perception. As my school chaplain once told me - "You can't smoke while you pray. But you can pray, while you smoke."

Multitasking suggestions and party fouls welcome in your comments...

More Stories By Richard Spragg

Richard Spragg is currently the Senior VP of Marketing for Talascend. Talascend is a provider of human resources in the engineering, construction, technology and manufacturing industries. Today, Talascend brings its clients the opportunity to fully staff projects from a single source, creating an opening for substantial cost savings and increased efficiency. Richard has 14 years of experience in marketing, engineering and construction, HR & staffing in both the UK and USA. Richard's specialties include marketing, recruitment operations, public realtions and business development. He writes on various subjects including global engineering jobs, staffing and marketing in the technical sector.

@ThingsExpo Stories
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.