This has been an odd week in an odd profession. Every day I’ve been frantically multitasking, and my desk shows it. (Don’t worry, the next line on my ridiculous to-do list says “For heaven’s sake clean off your desk!”)
Four different books are the culprits. First there’s From Glowing Embers. From Glowing Embers is now free for readers everywhere. I recently advertised that fact at BookBub and the results were heartwarming. Keeping track of sales has been delightful.
Then there’s my “new idea” which I sent to my editor several weeks ago. And while the idea and title have gotten a preliminary nod, I’m waiting for editorial notes and final acceptance. Nevertheless that hasn’t stopped me from working on the book in my head. I’ve spent hours researching California immigrant groups and I’ve reconsidered names, something that always helps clarify who my characters are.
Of course I can’t forget When We Were Sisters, which debuts in June. I’ve mailed dozens of copies of the uncorrected proofs to my Krewe of Review, so they’ll have plenty of time to read the book before reviews go up. Just as exciting I’ve been working on an “extra” connected to the novel which I’ll send to readers on my mailing list as a thank you for subscribing. Nobody can say this job is boring.
Finally, I’ve spent the past two weeks revising another of my original romances, Dragonslayer. I wrote about Dragonslayer here last week, and this week I finished the edits and saw the first peek at cover mock ups. Now I have to write new back matter, figure out a blurb for the bookstores, figure out keywords etc. Dragonslayer is here to stay for a while.
Quite truthfully there have been times this week when I’ve forgotten which book I’m working on. I’ve also felt strung out, unable to sleep well because of images and ideas cascading through my mind. As you might guess lack of sleep is the enemy of creativity.
None of this is actually a surprise. Multitasking is a myth. Neuroscience research tells us we are incapable of working on more than one thing at a time. We’re simply starting and stopping quickly, a process which isn’t particularly efficient because it takes seconds in between tasks.
NPR’s Science Friday recently addressed this in an interview with Clifford Nass, a psychology professor at Stanford. Multitasking is a fact of life at college. The top 25 percent of Stanford students are using four or more media at one time whenever they’re using media. Nass says that studies have shown that people who multitask frequently are less capable of “filtering out irrelevancies.” They are chronically distracted.
Well, yeah. . .
Does constant distraction affect creativity? Nass hypothesizes that it does, because creative people take in lots of information and use it to find interesting and unusual connections. But if we are chronically distracted, that kind of deeper thinking is less likely.
Can multitasking junkies be cured?
There are lots of suggestions on the web. Try googling “multitasking cure.” Here are a few ideas I gleaned from the results, all of which sound promising to me:
- List all your tasks (ongoing) and projects (with a set beginning and end) and prioritize.
- Ask yourself why multitasking is so seductive and what are healthier ways you can get the same “rush.”
- Choose one thing you can accomplish and schedule uninterrupted time to finish it. Then, if you have time, choose another.
- Schedule social media and stick to the time you’ve allotted.
- Start with the job you like least and get it over with so you won’t procrastinate later.
- Cut down on your use of “devices.”
Right now, on that cluttered desk, I see my Kindle, my iPad, my iPhone and two computer screens along with stacks of paper. Surely I can start by clearing away the mess and the gadgets. And if I haven’t fatally retrained my brain “not” to concentrate, I can begin putting my projects and tasks in order and proceed calmly through my list.
I think it’s time to try. How about you? How are you addressing multitasking in your own life?