Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

Summary: We may kid ourselves into thinking we are more productive with lots of tasks running at the same time, but mobile tech shows that isn't necessarily true.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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Technology has made it possible for us to do different things at the same time. Multitasking has become the norm, even expected, and it has changed the way we use mobile technology in particular. We not only expect our gadgets to do multiple things at the same time, we feel we are underachieving if we are happy doing just the one thing in front of us. While multitasking on mobile devices is nice, the fact is most of the time we'd be better off just focussing on the one task at hand.

The benefit of focussing on one job at a time has become clear to me since using various mobile devices in place of computers to do "real" work. While the tablets I use can multitask, the simple operation of displaying one app at a time turns the experience into that of computers of old, when only one program could run at a time.

Yes, I am dating myself but it wasn't that long ago when computers could only run one thing at a time. This dictated a usage pattern of starting a task and finishing it before moving on to the next thing. It sounds downright backwards, but to tell you the truth I believe most folks got more done this way. The single task, single screen operation forced us to concentrate on the one job before us, and that was a good thing in the long run.

Today it's a far different situation. We have multiple windows open on the computer, each vying for our attention on a continual basis. We are trying to work on a single task, but the other things keep shouting for us to look at them. This isn't a good way to work, but we all do it.

That's the primary reason I find using a tablet so productive. I start a task and find I almost always finish it in one sitting before moving on to something else. It only displays one app on the screen at a time, so my attention is firmly on the task at hand. It's effectively like going back in time to those dinosaur computers that couldn't handle multitasking, and it's honestly refreshing.

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Topic: Mobility

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16 comments
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  • Oh boy!

    You do know James that you will be called "fanboy" "paid by Apple" and anything else one can imagine of with this, don't you?
    MG537-23482538203179240121698430309828
    • So right!

      @MG537
      I dont know the last time one job equated to one task or if greater than one task it was done serially.

      Damm! I want his job. :O
      rhonin
    • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

      @MG537 I use my Galaxy Tab this way too.
      JamesKendrick
  • Say what?

    [i]Yes, I am dating myself but it wasn???t that long ago when computers could only run one thing at a time.[/i]

    univac?
    Back in the 80's my Amiga mt'd just fine.
    I find I do it very frequently on my Android devices.
    Find it to be very limited at best on my idevices.
    rhonin
  • It doesn't sound like you are against multi-tasking

    As has been pointed out, multi-tasking has been around in one form or another for an extremely long time. And the iPad does multi-tasking just fine.

    What you are talking about is that windowed applications are overrated. Only being able to see 1 window open at any 1 time is a benefit to productivity, or so your claim goes. Would that be more accurate?

    We see this trend even on the desktop in Lion with full screen apps and in the developer preview of Windows 8 Metro.
    toddybottom
    • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

      @toddybottom
      The iPad does [i]not[/i] do multitasking just fine.
      x I'm tc
      • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

        @jdakula: Exactly. The iPhone and iPad don't support multi-tasking and I doubt they ever will.
        bradavon
  • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

    Multitasking is not equal to viewing several windows at a time.

    While working on a document, one may have to refer to other documents, search something on web, use a spreadsheet, use any other relevant tool etc. It is not multitasking, you are doing a single task using several open windows. And it actually helps if you can see your other reference materials while working on the document, which is not possible on a full screen only environment.

    Of course, multitasking is overrated, it just steals your attention from your job. But we should not confuse between multitasking and windowed environment, they are different.
    Raju Das
    • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

      @Raju Das Multitasking applies to people, too. That's the whole point.
      JamesKendrick
  • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

    Multi tasking is not so much the point for me, its being able to refer to several things at once. Let's say I'm writing an email related to questions in a contract. It might be handy to have (open simultaneously on screen) a PDF of the contract draft, some prior email correspondence relating to the subject, and a spread sheet with my cost calculations related to the contract in addition to the email editor window. I seldom do more than one thing at a time, but usually I need reference materials to do that single task. Lack of multiple windows would so that I have to close the window with the editor, find the spread sheet, look up a number, close the spread sheet, open the editor write a sentence (wash, rinse, repeat), would seriously hamper my work flow. I expect I am not alone.
    txscott
    • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

      @rshol +1
      Not being able to open several e-mails, files, spreadsheets or documents at once and easily being able to switch between them would not just hamper my work but totally cripple it.

      That this works for @James Kendrick (and good luck to you) does not mean it will work for everyone. It definitely doesn't work for me.

      Most mobile OS's are terrible at task/window switching. I own a variety of iOS, Android devices and a Windows Phone 7. The only one that allows me to have more than one email open at a time is Windows Phone.

      Next best is Android Honeycomb. iOS is by far the worst (for me anyway.)
      dazzlingd
  • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

    I wouldn't call multitasking overrated, but I will admit it works great when you need it. I've done stuff with my N570 netbook that would make many slate owners jaws drop, simply because of what a desktop operating system and multi-threaded processor can deliver.

    Most important, though, is that I don't need to jump through hoops to get a task done. Rather than just sit at a keyboard and purely type, only to finish my work later at home on a real PC, I can get everything done right then and there. It's the ability to not only type, but to get online, research, create graphics, touch up photos, view video, stream music, run Office, etc. that makes me such a fan of the high-end netbook. It provides maximum productivity without sacrificing maximum mobility.

    As for being distracted, it's not so much the annoyances of the device that will ruin your workflow, but the phone buzzing in your pocket, screaming kids running around, barrister shouting that latte order, dog humping your leg, cat playing with your mouse, birds overhead (really bad), GF constantly crying "Hey honey"...
    lgpOnTheMove
    • LMAO!

      @lgpOnTheMove
      Dude - you need a vacation ;)
      rhonin
  • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

    Everybody multi-tasks all the time in our lives. On a computer though sometimes it does help to only have one window open at a time. This does allow you to focus. However, there are many times where, in order to complete your task at hand you must refer to another source of data. This is where the ability to have two (or more) windows open at once is such a necessity.

    If you don't need to have more than one opened then the user always has control. Close them. However having the OS make that decision for you is bad. I use an iPad for a lot of stuff. Even just buying something online requires me to close the browser, open my ewallet, copy the card data, close the ewallet, open the browser and complete my task. And no, I do not have all my credit card, bank routing numbers and account numbers, etc memorized - thar's what I have an ewallet for.

    As to doing complex documents or spreadsheets, well, in my business a single window just won't work.

    I'm not a child who needs to be told how I should do my work. I appreciate an OS that allows me to make that decision for myself.
    steeleblue_cactus
  • um

    Downloading in the background = multitasking = not overrated

    On the phone babbling while downloading in the background = multitasking

    Granted, doing 5 things at once and doing none of them well because the boss wants it all done in less time? That's not just overrated, that's dumb.
    HypnoToad72
  • RE: Using mobile tech shows why multitasking is overrated

    Nonsense. I regularly listen to Spotify, whilst checking e-mail and whilst also checking SMS. This is whilst waiting for a web page to load on a cruddy GPRS connection. That's mobile multi-tasking.

    If it's so productive, why don't you also do it on your desktop or laptop too? Because I'm betting you don't.
    bradavon