Tag: multitasking

What are you reading?

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This is a question I often ask people I meet in my professional life.

The reason for this is both curiosity but also to gauge how serious they are about what they do.

Studies on human cognition and the impact on media multitasking show that we just aren’t very good at processing information simultaneously (or near simultaneously) from multiple sources. Social media, it turns out, is not the best way to learn and if you want to take your professional development seriously you need to be reading.

It’s ok to be unplugged

Anyone who has spent much time with me or caught a glimpse of my desk will know I am perhaps one of the biggest culprits of this. Plugged in from the moment I wake up to when I power down at night, I am fed a constant stream of information from Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, RSS feeds and email to name but a few sources. Worse still, most of this content – likeĀ  this blog and Twitter’s 140 character nuggets – is created for snacking: bite-sized chunks of information to be grabbed at short intervals throughout the day.

While I must admit to a perverse sense of satisfaction in feeling up-to-date with everything that’s going on in my industry, the trouble is that it’s often misplaced. Studies show that this behaviour generally leads to an endless cycle of seeking out new stuff rather than taking the time to think about old stuff.

The very nature of snackable content means that these thoughts often end up living in isolation with little hope of being integrated into our overall understanding of a topic let alone something we could hope to effectively execute. If all you are doing is reading blogs and listening to podcasts, you probably will know a lot, but whether you can put it all together is another issue entirely.

Get back to basics

This is where reading comes into it.

Blogs and podcasts are a great way to stay abreast of new trends, but when I truly want to strengthen the foundations and integrate my thinking, I’ll pick up (or download) a book and read.

In my case, there is no better way for me to synthesise all the information I collect throughout the day then by undertaking further, in-depth study. Not only is it an opportunity to dig a bit deeper then a typical blog (Brian Solis, excepting), but it helps clarify my thoughts and allows me to better see how seemingly abstract concepts all relate to each other; a kind of spatial awareness, if you will. To use a basketball reference, it’s like watching Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, where their superior basketball IQ and vision meant they instinctively knew where everyone was on the court and could make the most ridiculous plays.

So next time you’re sitting on the couch or on the bus about to check your Google Reader or Twitter stream, why not try reading a book instead and seeing if this gives you a better perspective?

P.S. If you’re looking for a book, why not check out my Amazon recommended list in the sidebar [Disclosure: I’m an affiliate], otherwise here are two that I’m currently reading: The Dragonfly Effect and Content Rules.


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How fun is the Web really?

Digital Strategy12 Comments

To me, it’s plenty fun but at lunch with my friend Steve Culgan (@sculgan), we discussed what effects new technologies like Twitter, smartphones and the iPad have on people’s attention and our ability to just enjoy ourselves.

As Steve put it, the sheer volume of information and content that we are exposed to has the potential to make us more neurotic. Instead of being able to focus on just one thing (say, TV), there are now multiple channels competing for our attention. Rarely do we ever simply watch TV. For example, right now I am watching Algeria vs Slovenia on TV while writing this post on a laptop and checking Twitter on an iPhone.

The Argument

The argument is that we are no longer able to live in the moment. Obsessive checking of Twitter and the feeling that you might be missing out on something only contribute to this growing neurosis. The problem is further exacerbated when you take into account the amount of noise when your followers grow.

Our ability to enjoy ourselves diminishes as we constantly worry that there could be something else we could doing.

My counter, however, is that while the tools have the potential to disrupt our lives (let alone our brain patterns), human beings are incredibly adaptable.

Just take a look at a typical high school kid. They are growing up in a world where these technologies and multitasking are the norm. They’ve figured out how to juggle all these competing media and still have a good time.

The Challenge

The challenge is for my generation and older who haven’t always had this in our lives and aren’t quite as adept at the whole multitasking thing.

We must know our limits and how much we can handle before it’s too much. As a parent, there is an opportunity to cost to being constantly plugged in. Family-time means giving them my full attention (or at least a close approximation of it) – not being constantly distracted checking-in or posting status updates. When it’s just me, I’m free to do as I please whether it be playing PS3, blogging, tweeting or generally wasting time online.

The point is, you must accept that there are some things you’re going to miss out on. The beauty of something like Twitter and social media is that the cream will rise to the top. Following the right people or subscribing to the right feeds gives me the confidence that if it’s important enough, I’m going to hear about it.

How do you go juggling multiple media devices? Does something have to give or can you do it all?

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