Posts Tagged ‘multitasking’


January 16, 2011

Multitasking is a concept designed to make us feel inadequate. Like scholar-athletes or Angelina Jolie.

The idea that we can perform several tasks simultaneously is unrealistic. Neuroscientists have spent a lot of time demonstrating this, because people who insist that they’re capable of doing two or three things at once require scientific proof before they can be convinced otherwise. (For the rest of us, common sense tends to suffice.)

I believe the neuroscientists, although I think they overlooked one important thing: They didn’t consider the laundry.

Laundry is the ideal multitasking component. As long as the clothes are in the washer or the dryer, you’re free to participate in another activity content in the knowledge that you are successfully “doing” two things at once—even if the second thing is talking on the phone, watching TV or napping. This should be foolproof, but sometimes it’s possible to mess it up.

Today I’m planning to engage in my own form of multitasking—ironing and watching television. Yes, this is the same ironing I’ve been contemplating for nearly a week. I feel, however, that conditions are finally right for experimentation. Alert the scientific community.

Laundry Day #8

May 27, 2010


Shirts: 12
Pants: 7
Pajamas: 2
Shorts: 2
Skirts: 1

Temperature: Warm

Cost: $1.75

What have we learned?

Laundry should be the ideal multitasking task. You put it in; you walk away; you do something else while it’s washing or drying. What better way to accomplish two things at once? Except…

While you’re engaged in two or three other tasks (and it has to be at least that many or it wouldn’t be multitasking, now would it?) you can forget about the laundry. For hours. It happens. Even to me. And I’m pretty attentive to laundry-related things.

So today, I’m embarrassed to confess, those twelve shirts, seven pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, two pairs of pajamas and one skirt (yes, a skirt!) were left to languish in the washer for hours while I worked on the computer, washed the dishes, made iced tea and did assorted other things. Now they’re hanging up to dry, more wrinkled than they should be because I didn’t rescue them promptly when the washer finished its cycle.

Once people had become enamored of multitasking, proudly announcing the vast number of things they could do all at once (applying mascara while driving is one that never ceases to horrify me), cognitive psychologists started examining this phenomenon and recently came to the conclusion that it is possible to do a number of things all at once—if you’re willing to accept that you’ll do them all quite incompetently.


No, it’s not possible to comprehend what you read if you’re carrying on a conversation at the same time. (And the person who’s reading the paper while you’re talking is not listening to you, no matter what he tries to tell you.)

No, no no… it’s not possible to send and read text messages and operate a motor vehicle at the same time. (Did someone really need to tell you this?)

And no, sometimes, it’s not possible to do laundry and read email at the same time. Or maybe that’s just me.