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Multitask mythos


I had a whole draft post typed up on multitasking. It was called ‘Multitasking Mythos’, and there was a poem in rhyming couplets about dispensing with multitasking. I couldn’t post it because I think I might have been fibbing.

Here’s the way I see it: multitasking is a risky business. There aren’t many things I can do at the same time without compromise. Talking while driving, for example. Both suffer in quality. (Which works out well, because my passengers are quickly diverted into silent contemplation of their life leaving me to refocus on the task of operating the vehicle and restoring a comfortable equilibrium.) It’s like I have a fixed level of quality attention to offer a task, and increasing the number of tasks can only happen by reducing the level of quality each task receives.

More and more, I think it’s important to do one thing at a time, and do it well. If you’re already pretty sold on the multitasking thing, then you’re going to get fidgetty at first, because you feel like you’re doing less (i.e. fewer tasks). So you have to be more choosy about what tasks you decide to do, figure out what really deserves your attention. Down with multitasking! Hooray for unitasking!

Like I said, I had a whole post about this ready to roll. But…there are some big fat bleating exceptions to this approach and I realised I’d be telling porkpie lies if I posted it. I couldn’t do that to you. Instead, I assert: I am anti-multitasking…except for knitting.

Knitting opportunities are everywhere: hanging out with peepz, riding in the car, reading online, listening to music or podcasts, watching movies/sports/cockfights. You have to pick your project carefully (yes to plain stockinette, no to entrelac), but even the rich and fancy stuff has a chance. Reading and knitting at the same time is the best thing ever. EVER. Provided I’m not knitting anything distracting, I can absorb pretty intensive words while I’m at it. This makes me incredibly happy. Hanging out with peepz? Talking? Watching movies? Maybe it’s the addiction talking, but there’s not much I can’t do while knitting. Okay, that’s boastful exaggeration. I will rephrase: I am always looking for the chance to knit.

I stick to my assertion that multitasking is (mostly) a myth. My stumpy little reptilian brain is better at doing one thing at a time. Clarinet practice plus just about anything? Forget it. Yoga? Solo. Cooking? Let me tell you about scorched saucepans: the dark underbelly of multitasking.

And writing! Hells bells, I am embarrassed by how long this took to grok. I used to write while holding knitting, listening to podcasts, or surfing the web. I said to myself (and anyone else who cared) “it helps me think”. No wonder my ideas fizzled out before I could really work with them. Have you ever tried knitting and writing at the same time? Have you spotted the flaw in that plan? That’s right: my manifestation in this physical dimension has only two hands. If I’m knitting and get a wordy idea, I have to put the knititng down. The phrase “just one more round” is a cruel and stupid lie, because it only takes a couple of stitches for that idea that showed up begging for shelter to wilt and disappear completely. If I’m knitting when I’m trying to write, I’m slowing myself down too much for any ideas to grow. And that’s cool. There are so many opportunities to knit that I’m not going to lose precious stitch time if I put the needles down to write for a while. So when I catch myself hovering knitting over the keyboard, I will chant my newest mantra: “it does NOT help you think, you gimp, pick one thing and do it, Christ do I have to kick your arse EVERY time?” Snappy.

ah, the soothing glow of the laptop...

PS — That up there is Green Sprite, asking in the multitasking light of my browsing. After a week away, progress is awesome. I’ve got the pattern written out to the end of the body and I’m damned excited. I haven’t tried it on yet, initially because I couldn’t be bothered and now out of some sort of perverse feeling of challenge. Which are frankly the two driving forces behind all my decisions.

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