While Watching the French Open…

No, this isn’t a sport-related blog post.

And no, I don’t truly know enough about sports to make it one. That being said, it occurred to me yesterday morning, while I half-watched Serena Williams versus Lucie Safarova and had my morning cup of tea, that I get a tremendous amount of work done while I have what I perceive as mindless television on in the background (again, not a statement on tennis, just my lack of understanding). 

Yesterday morning, for example, as Williams and Safarova expertly slammed neon yellow balls at one another, I opened my computer and picked up editing a document that’s been weighing on me. A project I agreed to complete, but one that I’m not totally in love with. But I had tea and television; I was feeling pretty good about myself.

So, as I was editing (Williams takes a bathroom break and it shocks everyone), I click, copy, paste, select more politic words, I’m struck by the obvious: I’ve done basically nothing. My self-congratulating ego immediately deflated.

The task of editing, which I completely ignored yesterday in favor of procrasticleaning, was nowhere near complete. I looked around and considered my hour of “work” and how much of it was  left unfinished–Um, how? I even looked to Williams’ powerful serves for answers.

Is Watching T.V. Multitasking?

Despite that many articles have effectively argued against multi-tasking, it certainly does make me feel better. And I often pride myself on being able to multitask–I’m baking muffins AND I’m writing my proposal?!? But in this particular context I’m not sure if I’m exactly multitasking; I mean, if I were catching up on, well, anything, maybe that would constitute multitasking. Doesn’t the term “multitasking” imply that multiple tasks are being completed?

In this particular example, I accomplished nothing in nearly one hour. I brought the question to a couple of my writing group galpals: How do you accomplish annoying and tedious tasks promptly?

I got a variety of answers: watching television, taking breaks, setting a timer, and just, well, doing the damn thing, like Serena.

Because I have a tendency to be overly reflective about my writing process, I want to think about why I tend to privilege multitasking? And how is my multitasking any better than what my students do?

The Nature of the Work

There are, of course, troubling articles that suggest a relationship between watching T.V. while multitasking and depressionI usually keep this in mind while I’m doing something such as lesson planning or writing, which typically require my full, uninterrupted attention. Not to mention that depression and anxiety are totally serious issues, in particular in the humanities.

I don’t think it’s possible for me to write while I watch T.V, (I’m extremely jealous of anyone who can), but I wonder if something such as editing or simple revisions (such as changing format from MLA to Chicago) or other tasks that I don’t exactly love could be done with a type of multitasking in mind.

This is how I should finish all of my work.

What are your strategies for completing tedious, but essential, tasks promptly? I did, by the way, finally complete the editing, but ultimately I had to just shut up and write which, as unpopular as this can be, is so often the only way.

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