One Thing, Then Another One Thing

Submitted By:
Elizabeth Morley, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Lab School, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

Stop Multitasking. No, Really — Just Stop It. by Oliver Burkeman
New York Times, July 30, 2023

Oliver Burkeman wants us to know something. An acknowledged expert on time management research, he found something through personal practice that surprised him. He cannot multitask, at least not effectively and productively. He also knows that, in truth, no one can multitask. Burkeman is the author of 4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (reviewed in the September 2022 Klingbrief), but he is back with this article, focused on one thing – to encourage an everyday change in approach to tasks and time. This approach might seem counterintuitive to educators who know that there is almost no time in any school day that has only one thing calling on our attention. What is revelatory here is an evidence-based truth that, whether we accept it or not, we can only accomplish at peak when we do one thing, then another one thing. So, without fear of failing, we can give ourselves permission to examine how we use our attention, where it leaks away in our days, and to recognize that prioritizing is an available human skill while multitasking is not. Understanding that attention as a treasured resource, best and most wisely spent on things that matter most, could impact teachers’ and administrators’ outlook on responsible scheduling, commitments, and to-do lists. And it might model for our students a life skill that will reduce stress, avoid extremes, and allow for calm. Simple to say; very hard to do.

Leadership Practice
Psychology & Human Development
Science of Learning