iPhone, Multitasking, Computer Overload…What Was I Saying?

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So the new iPhone is now official. And I have to hand it to Steve and Company: it looks magnificent.

No small compliment, that. I’ve never been an iPhone fan, and I have to admit that between the design improvements, some neat new  features, and the addition of a good enough facsimile of multitasking to make it far more usable, iPhone version 4 is a winner. Never mind that most of what’s happening there is more for Apple’s benefit than yours (I can only video chat with other iPhone 4 users? Seriously?)

But this isn’t an iPhone 4 story.

Yesterday, on the very same day that the latest iPhone was announced, The New York Times ran a story about the effects of multitasking on our brains. And it’s not pretty. As a reader you’ll understand that I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised; I’ve pointed out several times that multitasking is beating us all to a pulp, even as the need for it becomes more and more pressing.

Then I came across a blog post at Web Worker Daily. And I realized that the problem is even worse than iPhones, studies cited in the New York Times, or even my own words have thus far pointed out:

We can’t even tell the difference between the things we do any more.

The three tips offered in the WWD post are:

  • Stop Scheduling Your Day
  • Distract Yourself
  • Allow Your Work To Be an Essential Part of Your Personal Life

Please excuse me while I pick up the fragments of my now-exploded head.

I understand the theory behind all of those bullet points, and I agree with what I believe the author’s intent was: life and business change are hard and getting harder, so chill out. But speaking of counter-intuitiveness, (as the WWD piece does), let’s be frank. Giving in to difficult situations may work for a little while, but ultimately you need to take control or the status quo will run away with you.

Looking at the situation point-by-point, here’s the happy(ish) medium:
First, the schedule/no schedule thing has no “answer”, so here’s the compromise: You don’t want to schedule everything, or your whole day, but there are definite benefits to doing some scheduling, both from a “getting things done” perspective AND from the point of view of controlling others so that their flakiness doesn’t murder your day. So do that.

The distraction thing is smart, but it needs to be . . . scheduled. Funny, right? Basically, you reward yourself for productivity by taking short breaks every xx minutes

As for mixing your work and personal lives: WOW. Yes, you need to love what you do. But you need even more to be able to shut it off. So while it’s a great idea to do what you’ve suggested, you have to be careful. This is the bailiwick of a scheduling professional, or a coach.

Want a new iPhone? Buy one. Enjoy the constant change and hustle that accompanies life and business? Thank goodness, because until you buy that private island you’ve been eyeballing there’s very little chance of getting away from it.  But manage your business change, your life, and your choices. And don’t expect technology to do it for you.

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