AEE 1242: Can You Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

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Are you a good multitasker?

What are some things you do when you multitask?

Maybe you are preparing for an exam like IELTS and you try to study while you prepare dinner, for example.

Many of us try to multitask but we may not be as effective at it as we think we are.

We’re going to look at multitasking, when it may work, when it may work against you, and how this becomes such a huge topic of conversation in English.

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Starting The Conversation on Multitasking

We all fall into the trap of multitasking at one point or another.

Though you may be good at it sometimes, you do want to consider just how effective it is in your life.

Recently there was an interesting article in the NY Times about multitasking: “The High Price of Multitasking. We All Do It. The Question Is How” by Daniel T. Willingham and it was written in the Opinion section on 7/14/2019.

This article is a good one and well worth discussing because it pertains to something that we all try to do every single day in our busy lives.

The article talks about how multitasking is pretty tough, particularly in certain areas such as driving, studying, and doing work.

There are a couple of key points from the article about this topic:

  • Willingham talks about how multitasking isn’t really multitasking, but rather you change off between two things you are doing. He does say it is okay if there is space between the things being done, and you know this ahead of time. He mentions that driving is NOT one of these things because you don’t know what the interruptions may be and you can’t account for them.
  • People multitask for different reasons, and it’s a good idea to figure out what yours is. The idea is that multitasking makes things more efficient. Try to consider what your reason for multitasking is and then decide if it’s working for you.
  • People may listen to music while working because it brings enjoyment. Even if you’re not working as well, it may bring some enjoyment to things.

There are multiple reasons for multitasking, and at the end of the day you have to decide if it’s working for you or not.

The Reality of Multitasking Broken Down

Though it may seem nice to get multiple things done at once, it can actually backfire.

There are a couple of tips and ideas that come from the article which can help you to assess if multitasking will really work for you.

  1. You cannot produce two things at once–and that’s the truth. There’s no benefit to this, even if the person enjoys it. The article says that you can’t actually produce two independent things at the same time. If you have tried to do this, then you know firsthand that this is true.
  2. You can decide if you want to multitask but you have to be honest with what happens if something isn’t completed. You have to evaluate what would happen if each task wasn’t done to its full potential. The article talks about driving as this is something that you can’t do at the same time as something else. Be realistic and recognize what will happen if you don’t finish one of the activities or do it the best of your ability.
  3. You can motivate yourself in other ways. We all have things that motivate us, and you want to think about what that means to you. In the article, he talks about taking breaks. If you have multiple things to get done at once, then think of ways you can stay motivated and on task. This will help you to get everything done effectively without falling off track.

These tips are worth considering if you are somebody who multitasks.

Ask yourself just if multitasking is helping or hurting you, and then switch things around to accommodate this.

Talking About Multitasking

This is one of those topics that people love to talk about in English and in American culture.

You may find yourself in plenty of conversations where the focus is on multitasking.

Since you will find yourself talking about it, you want to know some words or phrases that are commonly used in English among native speakers.

Here are a few words and phrases to use when talking about multitasking that you will find useful in conversation.

  • Walk and chew gum at the same time: You are talking about trying to do two things at once here. This isn’t always easy and therefore requires concentration and of course multitasking. You might say, “I really think we can watch this show while we do our work. We can walk and chew gum at the same time!”
  • Juggle: This is a visual word because you can actually picture somebody juggling balls in the air. This is about trying to do multiple things at the same time, which is of course tricky. You might say, “I can’t juggle all of these tasks. It’s just too much at once.”
  • Balance: This is a visual one but it’s something that we all may struggle with sometimes. Finding balance in your life can be challenging and that’s why people tend to try to multitask. You think that you can balance everything and make it work. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. You might say, “I can balance all of these tasks if I just focus and take my time.”
  • Too many things up in the air: This is like juggling or trying to keep multiple things going at the same time. It’s not easy but so many of us try to do it. This can catch up with you and so you might say something like, “I have too many things up in the air right now. Can I start on that project later?”

These are all common English words and phrases used to talk about multitasking.

Try one out in conversation and see how it really gets the other person talking–remember that people love talking about this.

Takeaway

Do you multitask and if you do, how does it impact your life?

Would you be more productive if you did less multitasking?

The reality is that you may think that you’re doing a great job with multitasking, but you want to really think about it and decide if it’s true.

While multitasking may have some positives, you have to consider if it’s truly effective for you.

Think through situations where you multitask and ask yourself if it’s working for you or against you.

This is something to consider in your life, and it can make for a great topic of conversation as well.

So go out there and strike up a conversation about this topic in English. Good luck!

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


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