Tuesday, June 10, 2008

7 Habits Essential for Tackling the Multitasking Virus

I recently wrote an article about a heartbreaking new trend in our classrooms. In Universities throughout the US, students are surfing the internet, shopping online, Facebooking, and emailing while their professors speak to disengaged minds.

One can argue that kids have always passed notes, but this semester’s explosion of multi-tasking is on a terrifying scale and teachers nationwide are bereft. The Dean of the University of Chicago Law School just banned surfing during class. Harvard Business School was forced to cut off internet access. Columbia, Barnard and countless others are hustling for solutions, but students demand that their rights are not infringed upon.

You can read my account of this crisis and of the dangers of multitasking in this piece on Tim Ferriss’s blog. What I would like to do now is propose some actionable solutions to a cultural problem that extends far beyond our schools.

In my opinion, cutting off internet access in classrooms, while a good idea, is just addressing the symptom of a much broader disengagement. We have to get to the root of the problem by understanding why kids, and adults for that matter, are not deeply immersed in what they are doing.

What is getting in the way of presence? Alienation. From a very young age, kids are not being listened to and so they are turning off their minds. Horrible policies like No Child Left Behind, and the gauntlet of standardized tests our kids have to endure, are turning education into a forced march. Most of the professional world is an extension of the same problem. Everyone is being jammed into the same cookie cutter mold, and that is not how anyone will thrive. Below are some internal solutions to navigating an increasingly disconnected external environment.

1. Do what you love.
2. Do it in a way you love and connect to.
3. Give people a Choice and they become engaged.
4. Release a fear of failure.
5. Build positive routines.
6. Do one thing at a time.
7. Take Breaks.

Read more.

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