Inspiration: Paolo Cardini’s Case for Monotasking



I love the idea of “monotasking,” and Cardini’s short talk really resonated with me on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.  After reading John Medina’s Brain Rules, I now understand that we can’t actually multitask.  Media says, “The brain is not capable of multi-tasking. We can talk and breathe, but when it comes to higher level tasks, we just can’t do it” (Source).  When we have several windows open on our laptop, we can’t type an instant message; watch Cardini’s TED Talk; listen to music; read an article; and grade a student paper at the same time.  We can switch between tasks rapidly; however, Media explains that switching back and forth between tasks actually causes problems for us.

Medina argues that we should think of our attention as a flashlight: “Think of attention as the beam of a flashlight. No matter how hard you try, you can never shine the flashlight on two separated objects simultaneously – all you can do is rapidly switch the beam back and forth between them” (Source).  It takes longer to re-focus on a task when we do the switching back and forth.  We must learn to focus on one task at a time so that we can actually accomplish more… more quickly.

The subject of Cardini’s TED Talk is hugely important to me.  I don’t understand most smartphone users because I find that they are never really there in the present moment.  My students are playing with their iPhones under the desk as opposed to listening to or participating in class discussion.  My friends are constantly texting, updating Facebook, and Tweeting during lunches or dinners instead of paying attention to our conversation.  People with smartphones are more wrapped up in taking pictures of their life to put on Facebook than in actually living that life.  Smartphones may help people stay connected, but that connection is 100% virtual.  Smartphone users prefer multitasking in the virtual world as opposed to living in the real one.

As opposed to embracing smartphone technology, I want to move backward.  I want to eliminate my smartphone from my life entirely.  In fact, I’d love a phone with one purpose: to call others and to receive calls.  This would help me resist “the ping” of email, social media, and texts.  It would also help me resist constructing a fake life as opposed to living my real one (read more about this in my previous post about Sherry Turkle).  I was strong enough to resist the pull of Facebook, and I’ve been Facebook free for a year and a half.  Cutting down on social media and on the smartphone will help me live a more simple and fulfilling life, and it will help me monotask on the important things.  Cardini’s TED Talk focuses on what I’d like to spend 2013 doing more of: monotasking.

Have you seen any TED Talks that help you solidify your goals for next year?  Have you started creating your resolutions yet?


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