My Multitasking Mind
Friday, July 11, 2008
I grew up on the cusp of the information explosion. As a kid of the 1980's, I had the pleasure to grow up alongside the technology we live with every day. When I was a young child, the Atari was still new, creating moving blocks on a black screen that was supposed to represent space ships or men riding flying ostriches. As I began to learn to write and read, the Commodore 64 was introduced into our home, still more of a destination for entertainment than for serious thinking. During my early teens years, the Internet was first introduced into my world, initially from my tech-savvy friend's Prodigy connection, then by another friends BBS fascination, where we would slowly download illicit pictures and fractal programs that created amazing visuals for our impressionable minds. From there, I got my first computer in my room, with an AOL account and an ability to meet strangers and friends alike online...mostly strangers, as me and my goofball friends would pretend to be obscure celebrities or their family members. I believe "Kevin Nealon's son" was a popular one, if only because it seemed so random that people believed it to be true. By the time college started, most people had a computer in their dorm rooms and AOL Instant Messenger was common place. By the time I left college, everyone had individual computers in their rooms, instead of one computer for 2 to 4 roommates, and AIM was left on 24/7, thanks to the school's high speed internet. By graduation, high speed internet was available in more places than just college campuses. Today, I spend a good 80% of my rime at a computer while working, and a decent amount of time when I am away from work.
Somewhere in there, something happened to my brain. Perhaps it was always there all along. Multitasking. My first memory of multitasking came when I was in 7th grade. I was sitting in math class, my teacher going through some algebra problem as I doodled in the margins of my notebook. I had been doodling for the entire class, and my margin-art was spilling over to the rest of the page. I eventually turned the page over to have the entire back for my doodling masterpiece, likely some variation on the Incredible Hulk or Spiderman. I remember hearing something from the teacher, something important, and then turning the page back to add that tidbit of useful information to my notes. I looked around the class, this I remembenr vividly, and noticed that when I was done with my brief notes, they all continued writing. Those who didn't had returned their attention to the teacher. Granted, I was in an advanced class, probably considered the worst of the best, but I was still amazed at their focus. Where were their doodles? How was I the only one in a class of thirty to be completely bored by the teacher's useless lecturing. For every important nugget of information, there were five minutes of story telling and three minutes of bullshit. And I was able to do the two things, doodling and listening for important information, at once.
Years later, I would literally sit in class with a paperbook open in my lap. I would listen while I read, taking notes as needed and ignoring the rest of the prattle. When computers came into play, my multitasking just heightened. I would sign on, begin a download and walk off for 20 minutes while the picture of Samantha Fox loaded. When the tech got better, I would chat with multiple people at once. Common things; things that you and I do today without a second's thought. In college, I would be on the computer, writing a paper, doing research, chatting, with the TV on, all at once. I perfected my multitasking there. In law school, I would play games on my laptop while the professor taught. I would surf the net and even play online poker in my (ironic) Computer Law class, once the school introduced wireless internet.
The incidence of ADD in children today seems alarming. In my day, I don't think ADD was even invented. If a kid couldn't pay attention, it was because they lacked discipline. And yet, I wonder if I have developed ADD or had it all along. At work, I have no less than three things going at a time. I can't help it, or perhaps I can, but choose not to. I accept that this is the way I work. My brain hates to stick to one task. I start writing a motion for work, switch to a quick letter, then some research, call a client, back to the writing. And it's rapid, too. 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, 5 minutes elsewhere. At home, I can barely make it through a 22 minute sitcom (no commercials, thanks to DVR). Halfway through I feel a sense of boredom or restlessness. A need to check my email (again) or switch to poker or a videogame or something, anything other than what I had just been doing for the last 15 minutes. Even now, typing this, I have an urge to switch windows, check out what's on sale at Woot, or who posted a new entry in their blog. Sometimes, I even stop reading a blog after a few paragraphs, only to go back to it later. It's not that I didn't enjoy the first few paragraphs. It's that I have grown restless.
My brain is constantly looking for more input, more stimulation to stave off the boredom that eats at me every second of every day. Boredom is my enemy, and my weapon against it is to keep my mind busy.
And so, last night, I hit a new multitasking high (or low). After signing up for the Riverchasers event, wifey Kim decided that she wanted to play Mario Kart. We mostly play on the internet mode against other players. Each race takes between 2 and 4 minutes with about 45 seconds lag time between races while players pick their vote for next race. I have learned to live in those 45 seconds. I can fold laundry while playing Mario Kart. I can read blogs. I can do a whole lot in those individual packets of time. And yesterday, I played poker, a tournament no less, in 45 second increments for about an hour. Wifey Kim > poker, so I chose to let the Riverchasers tourney sit while I played a race, only to play for a fleeting 45 seconds before the next race began. I would never do such a thing, save for the fact that it was a cheap enough tourney ($11 donation, essentially) and spending time with wifey Kim always comes first. Of course, I ended up busting shortly after finishing Mario Kart, so I suppose there is a touch of irony involved too.
Sometimes I wonder if I have ADD. I think that I could benefit from seeing a doctor and getting on pills that would increase my concentration. Perhaps these magic pills would save me from myself, easing the mental Restless Leg Syndrome kicking around in my head. But most of the time, I embrace my multitasking mind. I give it what it wants. It's the way I work, be it at school, office or home. It's gotten me this far and to deny it is to deny myself.
So, I continue on with multitasking mind, even now pulling me to some other unnecessary task or perhaps a necessary one upon which other less addled-minded folk would focus entirely. I don't know if it was growing up with computers (literally) or if my mind was already going in this direction. But it's me, and it's worked so far.
Until next time, make mine poker!
posted by Jordan @ 9:19 AM,
- At 1:53 PM, Uncle Chuck said...
Wow, more and more we seem to have in common, almost scary sometimes.
I too feel your thoughts of ADD.
I could point out the logical explanation for myself, which I am continuously addressing.
Tough to stay focused at work, agreed.
- At 12:16 PM, Memphis MOJO said...
I think ADD is like most things. It's not you-have-it or you don't-have-it. Just a matter if degree.
Some people need the pills. You've obviously developed the coping skills, not only to survive the (I hate to say "ADD", but whatever you have), but to use it to your advantage. Your brain is like a powerful race car, and you're able to drive it without having an accident (okay, not the greatest analogy, but it's something like that).