Saturday, March 09, 2013

Monotasking vs. multitasking

I am enjoying reading Out of Their Minds (The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists) by Dennis Shasha and Cathy Lazere. IMHO, the book does a great job in making the lives and ideas of some of the leaders in our field accessible to a general public. I will recommend it to my students and to the colleagues of mine who will prepare future Pearls of Computation seminars.

At the end of the chapter devoted to Donald E. Knuth,  the authors quote Don Knuth as saying:
I do one thing at a time. This is what computer scientists call batch processing---the alternative is swapping in and out. I do not swap in and out.
This quote reminded me a TED talk, in which Italian designer Paolo Cardini encourages his audience to consider the virtues of monotasking.

For several years in my career, I was largely a monotasking person. In my research, I mostly worked on one thing at the time. However, this has changed substantially over the years.  Now I find myself multitasking and context switching a lot and this leads to more stress at work. I guess that most of us have a similar story to tell; the length of the list of things to do increases much faster than our ability to get things done, alas.

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