After this week's awesome presentation, we were left the task of viewing the video "Single-tasking is the new multi-tasking" before beginning our blog posts. As I'm sure was the case with many of my classmates, as I sat down to view the video, my attention only lasted a few short seconds before I tried to do other things while I watched. Instead of just sitting and focusing on the one task at hand, I also had time to put my dishes in the dishwasher, check my fantasy football scores on my phone and grab a drink from the fridge. While I could argue that I was more productive because I was able to accomplish four things instead of the single thing I started with, it became apparent that through trying to multi-task, I was unable to complete the most important task that I started with. Once I sat back down to view the end of the video, I had to zip back to the beginning of the video and watch it again, which meant that instead of taking four minutes to complete the task, it actually took eight. This in itself highlights the problem explained in the video - it is probably more productive to focus on only thing rather than trying to multi-task many at the same time.
With this in mind, I've made a conscious effort to focus only on this task today and see if my work time improves. To help with this I've placed my phone in a separate room, taken my Apple Watch off, closed all but two of my active tabs (I kept our Weekly Plan one open for reference) and ensured all other applications on my computer are closed. I'm not going to lie though, just 15 minutes in and I'm already struggling. My brain is so used to needing to focus for a short amount of time before I would switch to something else that it's been hard so far to keep myself on task. I find that every time a different thought comes to my mind I instinctively reach for my phone only to find it not there. It's crazy (and a little scary) that I have conditioned my brain to work this way each week. I wonder how long it will take me to get to a point where I'm able to fully concentrate on a task at hand without the urge to multi-task?
So, this naturally leads to the question posed to us in our blog prompt: Is the Internet really a productivity tool or merely an endless series of distractions?
The more I thought about this question, the more I realized that the answer isn't a simple yes or no as there could be great arguments to be made on both sides. While my experience writing these posts would surely support the "endless distraction" side of technology, I also believe there are many tools online that aid in helping people become more productive. As many of my classmates have pointed out, there are many apps and tools online that can help us to be more productive when we are working on a task. Whether that be planning tools like Planboard or Planbook, self-control apps such as App Limits or SelfControl, or even hubs like OneNote or Google Classroom, if used the right way, could yield many benefits for productivity. However, like so many debates about technology, it has less to do with the technology itself, and more with how we use it. When utilized correctly, the internet (and technology) can help us to be far more productive than we were in the past.
Now, just bear with me for a second here - imagine having to write a term paper 30-40 years ago. What did this look like? Well for starters, the amount of time spent on finding resources would be immensely longer than it is today. Instead of utilizing the plethora of online databases to find articles or academic journals to cite in your paper, you would need to head to the library and spend time finding the physical copies to get your hands on. If that wasn't bad enough, you couldn't just use a simple keyword search (along with various filters) to find the exact articles you were looking for - which would exponentially increase the time spent to locate these resources. Then to make matters worse, you wouldn't have access to tools such as RefWorks or EasyBib to compile your references, which for a large paper, could be quite time-consuming. All in all, when comparing life with the technology we have today from those of the past, it's obvious that we have the potential to be far more productive today - but again it just comes down to how we use it.
As Neil Postman said in his article, Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change, "for every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage." When comparing these words to the prompt for this post, it's clear that this is exactly the case for technology vs. productivity. As I've highlighted above, technology offers us many ways to achieve levels of productivity that people of the past could have only dreamed of. However, while there are certainly benefits with this technology, there is also the added disadvantage of being over-stimulated with things that could distract us from our tasks. As capable human beings, we can't blame the technology for these issues, but rather we need to hold ourselves accountable when we become distracted. Technology is only a tool (for good or bad), but people themselves ultimately harness the power in how to use it. If we take more responsibility for our use of technology, the issues discussed in this post would dissipate dramatically. As we move into the future, this is something that needs to be recognized as technology isn't going anywhere.