The multitasking mindset: Does it help us or hurt us?

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Multitasking can be a talent or a curse, depending on the situation.

Students today are bogged down with packed schedules and numerous responsibilities that require them to think about and do multiple things at once. Some say it’s a blessing to be able to multitask, while others say the habit is degrading our generation’s abilities to think clearly, communicate effectively and focus.

Alexis Weekes cooking, doing homework and texting all at once.

In an article titled “Multitasking State of Mind,” written by Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, she discusses the downside of multitasking and how it is detrimental to students.

“The mental habit of dividing one’s attention into many small slices has significant implications for the way young people learn, reason, socialize, do creative work and understand the world,” Simpson wrote. “More students are zoning out (and are) less able to complete assignments.”

Scott Church, a popular culture and media professor at BYU, said he finds truth in Simpson’s argument.

“The overabundance of personal and mobile media certainly can divert us from other, more pressing things,” Church said.

Church also said he has experienced distracted and unprofessional communication efforts from students in his classes. For example, sending emails that are too informal, expecting answers immediately or using media during class discussions. He believes it is important to know when to unplug and turn down the volume.

“I agree with Simpson in that we are overstimulated from all of our options,” Church said. “Sometimes it can be beneficial to slow down a bit.”

Jenna Hickey, a neuroscience major from West Virginia, said she has a tendency to multitask in order to feel productive.

“I’m so used to multitasking that I feel like I’m being unproductive if I’m not multitasking,” Hickey said. “When I consciously decide that I want to enjoy a moment and not do a million things at once, I feel like I can actually be in the moment and get the most out of it.”

With the availability of advanced technologies and communication devices, multitasking may come down to self-control and personal habits. Hayden Plumber, 21, an accounting major, said that because there is always something he can be doing, he tends to pick up his phone, turn on the TV or open his computer to fill his free time.

“When I’m not doing anything, I have to be doing something,” Plumber said. “I think everyone is like that because technology has taken over the world.”

At the end of her article, Simpson wrote about the benefits of face-to-face communication skills and the lack thereof in upcoming generations.

“Multitasking used to be a way of getting things done, now it’s a state of mind,” Simpson wrote. “Living — really living and connecting with people — requires concentration, not distraction.”

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