Multitasking, Single-Tasking, and Productivity

What does it mean to be productive? How much do I need to check off my ever growing to do list to feel like I have been productive? To start with I have always been a list maker. Seeing everything I must do and being able to prioritize my tasks is helpful for me to be productive. I really think what I like most about those lists is being able to check something off when I have completed it. The feeling of accomplishment. However, there are so many days when the list is too long and it doesn’t get made at all. Those are the days I describe as being busy. Busy makes a day go by very fast. Busy can feel unproductive. In thinking about being busy and being productive I came across John Spencer’s website. He created this video which does a great job of explaining busy versus productive.

I would say that being in a state of busyness requires multitasking. While we have always heard that it is possible to multitask yet in reality our brains are just not wired to handle multiple tasks like we think they are. In this article, How Multitasking Affects Productivity and Brain Health the author Kendra Cherry states,

Research has demonstrated that switching from one task to the next takes a serious toll on productivity. Multitasksers have more trouble tuning out distractions than people who focus on one task at a time. Also, doing so many different things at once can actually impair cognitive ability.

If we know that about multitasking why do so many of us still try to do it all? The Single-Tasking is the New Multitasking video brings up some really great points. I can say that I related to many scenarios that James Hamblin discussed. I find that writing a paper or a blog post takes me much longer than it should. I blame myself for that as I lose interest and look to my phone or a new tab as a distraction. I have started to eliminate those distractions by leaving my phone in another room so that I am not tempted to just take a quick minute to browse Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. It’s really remarkable how easy it is to get sucked into mindless scrolling and before you know it an hour has gone by!

So is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions? I think it has the potential to be both. However, I believe it comes down to the user. The Internet has much to offer both good and bad. I cannot blame my lack of productivity on the Internet because I am procrastinating or choosing to be distracted. Without the easy access to the endless distractions the Internet has to offer, I know that some other type of distraction would fill the void.

With a wide variety of tools now available, are they making us more productive? Raquel, Kelly, Allison, and Deidra presented on Productivity Suites and Presentation Tools. They shared the evolution of these tools and how they connect to the main learning theories. One message they shared which connects to what I said earlier was “it’s not about the tool itself but how you use it”. Again, the tools are there and can provide us with endless options for being productive but it is just as easy to become distracted. For example, there are many presentation tools available and you can create a very professional looking presentation by using these tools. However, it is very easy to get hung up on graphics, fonts, and background images while missing the mark on the content.

It was interesting to read the article Microsoft 365 vs Google Workspace to see the comparisons made as I currently use both. I use them for different reasons, choosing what will best serve my need or purpose of what I have to do. Google Docs and Slides are my go to when I need to share or collaborate with others. I use Microsoft Word when I am writing something for myself or something I will share in final copy. I think it is important to note that both productivity tools were designed for use in businesses yet they now exist in most classrooms. In the article How Google Took Over the Classroom the author states,

Google is helping to drive a philosophical change in public education — prioritizing training children in skills like teamwork and problem-solving while de-emphasizing the teaching of traditional academic knowledge, like math formulas. It puts Google, and the tech economy, at the center of one of the great debates that has raged in American education for more than a century: whether the purpose of public schools is to turn out knowledgeable citizens or skilled workers.

This statement made me think about what skills we want our students to posses. I see our role as educators is to develop the 4Cs in our 21st century learners – critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and are vital to success in school and beyond. I believe technology can play an important role in developing these skills. In particular, I see how productivity tools can provide students with opportunities to communicate and collaborate in ways we would not otherwise be able to achieve in a classroom.

3 thoughts on “Multitasking, Single-Tasking, and Productivity

  1. jacquiemurray July 18, 2021 / 8:34 pm

    Laurie, excellent blog post that not only brings in the readings for tremendous evidence of your point of view, but also illustrates how the group furthered that thinking and made it personal in our spaces. The way you illustrated why and how you use each of the productivity suits reiterates the many ways they can be integrated and the need to know what for and why! The part that resonated with me the most in this blog was the 4C’s. The notion of constantly implementing Critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating and collaboration slows down ones thinking to really be intentional with the assignment and how it best reaches an outcome while modelling real world skills to think and innovate while listening to others thoughts and ideas to create a final product. Thank you for reminding me it’s not just about the tech/productivity tool, it’s what we can do with the tools to learn and grow .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laurie, I loved John Spencer’s stuff, so I really liked how you incorporated that video. In the last course I took, I was lucky enough to see connectivism working in real life. Our prof sent John a message and asked him if he’d be willing to chat to our class about educational technology. Sure enough, he was more than happy to and it was one of the best things that could have ever happened. It was so engaging, and he had so many great ideas! I like how his stuff can be used in younger grades, all the way up to unversity!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. akauf89 July 19, 2021 / 9:45 pm

    Hey Laurie, very interesting blog! I agree with your thoughts on the internet being both productive and a distraction. Your quote on how multitasking can affect cognitive ability had me reflect on my internet use. Quite often, when I am trying to be productive, I find myself starting one thing, but then get sidetracked searching about another, and then I start something new without finishing the project I initially started. At times, I pride myself on my ability to multitask but perhaps it is time to try to focus on one thing at a time and see if it saves me time in the end. In the classroom, I agree with your take on the role of educators to teach the 4C’s, which is why I love having one to one computers in my classroom. However, you mentioned how easy it is to get hung up on the graphic, background, etc, and I wonder how much time some students spend on this. As educators when we know this happens, should we re-think the use of technology in the classroom, or does the benefits of tech outweigh things like this?

    Liked by 1 person

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