The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Herne revisited - and a word on multitasking

Yesterday I spent a bit of time on Edgeling 2, but found my thoughts drifting to the manuscript for Herne sitting on the rocking chair next to me.  I had done some rough edits about a month ago, but hadn't really looked at it since.  Well, before I knew it, I was re-reading the manuscript and making some mental notes.

So far today I've written about a page more of Edgeling 2, but then I opened Herne on the other computer and have been flitting between the two.  Herne has so far won the contest for my attention today.

To inspire me while cleaning and polishing Herne, I decided to look for some images of the old antlered guy himself and found this:

This is a bigger than life (7ft 7 inches) sculpture of Herne by artist Michael Rizzello.  Here's the link to the website.

As I flit from computer to computer I am reminded of a conversation I had with the kids at dinner last night about the concept of multitasking.

My daughter had heard the term and asked me what it meant.  I told her that it refers to a computer's ability to run several programs at once.  She said she'd heard it used to relate to people.

Ahhhh.  Now, I hate the term "multitasking" to be used to describe human behaviour.  I know that more and employers say they're looking for individuals who can multitask, but it is my firm belief that if you want to do something well you need focus.  I told my daughter that it is possible to multitask.  We all do it when we drive and listen to the radio, but at least one of those activities is virtually unconscious.  I'll let you decide which.

Human multitasking is, in my opinion, one of the big things wrong with the way we work nowadays.  If you want a lot of things done in a mediocre or poor fashion, go ahead and try to multitask all you want, but if you want a decent product or result there's no substitute for focus and attention to detail.  Many people brag about being able to do several things at once, but is doing many things poorly really something to be proud of?

Now, I always have at least a half dozen writing projects on the go, but I would never dream or typing one and dictating another at the same time.  I would never attempt to type and carry on a phone conversation.  Nothing good comes from that.  I read at least three or four books at any given time, but I don't fool myself into thinking I'm reading them all at once at the same time.  I can read and watch TV at the same time, but one activity always suffers a deficit of attention.  It has to.

I am not saying that everything you do needs to be your best effort.  No - far from it.  In fact, there are many things in life where it makes sense to put in the least effort required to get the job done.  "Any job doing is worth doing right!"  Maybe, but not all jobs (or even most jobs) demand excellence.  There are some jobs that simply do not merit one's best effort, but for those things that are important, people do themselves a disservice to tackle them with a lack of focus,   And multitasking - for humans - always equals a lack of focus.

Here endeth the lecture.

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