Just google the phrase "the myth of multitasking" and you will get just under 500,000 results. In my search, some of the top results were articles dating back as far as 2005. There were a couple of good articles (here and here ) by Ph.D. Jim Taylor wiring for Psycology Today where he informs us we don't so much "multitask" as we "serial" task. We switch from one task to another quickly and fool ourselves into thinking we are doing two things at once.
This term multi-tasking comes form the world of technology, where the computer can actually be doing two or more things at once. We humans only pretend to multi-task in an effort to get more done in less time.
So why was I google-ing "the myth of multi-tasking" you may ask? Especially when I had heard before that most research showed "multi-tasking" not only did not work, it actually made us less efficient. Yet so many of us not only still try to multi-task, we wear that badge with pride.
However, using the iPad as primary device has made me aware how poorly it does multi-tasking. Or at least that was my initial reaction. I was bummed about how "hard" it was to switch between writing and responding to email while at the same time doing a remote control session on a server to update software. On the computer you can arrange windows on the screen so that you can be watching a movie in the upper left corner, checking email in the lower half of the screen, and browsing the web in the upper right corner. Not that I have ever done that of course ;-)
But on the iPad, you get ONE screen at a time. As a computer, the iPad functions more like a human when it tries to multi-task. It simply suspends operation on task one, puts it in the background, and pulls up task two (ONLY) for you to work on it. When you get distracted and want to check email, you have to suspend what you are doing and switch to another screen with ONLY that application visible.
All this to say, as a computer consultant, a geek, and a stressed out entrepreneur with too much to do and too little time, I am finding that the forced "serial tasking" on the iPad is helping me focus and making me more aware of how easily I am distracted on the computer. So much so, that I may start playing with the "full screen" mode that Apple introduced in Lion.
Let me know what you think. We are always interested in your feedback.