The Perils of Multitasking

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In our fast-paced world, multitasking is considered a cardinal professional virtue. People who can juggle multiple assignments at once are considered to be working wonders, and most of us admire their seemingly superhuman productivity. Technology workers in particular are not only habitual multitaskers, they also create the tools that enable others to be, as well.


But these skills might not serve IT pros well as they prepare for certification exams. (It might not always be the best approach on the job either, but that’s a topic for another medium.)


Few people learn effectively while their minds are trying to simultaneously focus on both studying and a host of other unrelated tasks. This claim isn’t really that controversial. In fact, it should be apparent to almost anyone reading this.


And yet, so many people knowingly fall into the multitasking trap. The reasons for this are legion. Some people have a “do it all” mentality that causes them view all the undertakings before them as a kind of test of will.


The danger for these individuals is irrational goal-obsession, that is, these duties become things unto themselves, worth doing because they’re there to be done. If these people paused and thought critically about some of these tasks, they might conclude they’re a waste of time or at least not so consequential that they must be done right away.


For others, multitasking is a way to cope with what they perceive as now-or-never situations. In other words, these individuals take on multiple assignments because time is short, and they think they’ll never get accomplished otherwise.


Now, there are undeniably circumstances where last-minute occurrences come up that force people to adjust their schedules dramatically and put more on their plate then they’d like. For the most part, though, the root of this problem is procrastination and poor time management.


Whatever the reason, the main argument against multitasking while studying is one of quality. When you allocate your attention to many tasks, all of them usually end up suffering to some degree. On the other hand, being completely absorbed in a single thing is one of the best ways to ensure you’ll understand it and do it right.


That’s really where any lesson on focusing should start: Move other assignments out of the way — physically and chronologically — so you can concentrate on studying a single thing over a prolonged period of time.


To start, you should consider all the disruptions that pull you away during learning sessions. Then, simply remove those things from your purview. When studying, try to find a quiet, isolated space where it’s just you and your materials.


For those of you using a laptop or PC to learn via online or CD-ROM programs, the temptation to multitask is especially great. After all, you have various documents, e-mail and the Web at your fingertips. Unplug the Internet or take out your wireless card, give it to someone you know and trust and tell that person to hide it from you until you’re done studying. Also, no matter whether you’re using a computer, be sure to turn off the phone.


In all likelihood, the time and effort demanded by certification will only go up, so you’ve got to get your mind geared up for focused learning. If you can remove the distractions that coax you to multitask, then you’ve already won half the battle.

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