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Can dictation software help focus and stop multitasking-and get more done?

by Tris Hussey on April 25th, 2007

Suw Charman wrote on Corante earlier this month that multitasking is as bad as procrastination.  Essentially we really all know we can’t truly multitask…

I’m not sure that this is really new news, though. Who, deep down, hasn’t pretty much known that multi-tasking is a con? We’ve known for years about the state of flow, where you are so entranced by what you are doing that each next action comes almost effortlessly, and it seems pretty obvious that if you are constantly interrupting yourself you cannot enter a state of flow. The problem I have is not in recognising that multi-tasking is a bad idea, but in breaking the multi-tasking habit. I’ve been fooling myself into thinking that I can multi-task for so long now that I have slipped into some really bad habits which I desperately need to break if I am to really get done some of the big projects that I want to work on this year.

Suw’s solution, or idea of a solution, was to try speech-to-text software (she tried Dragon Naturally Speaking, which sadly has no free trial-which I think is very, very important given the investment, etc.).  By dictating, she put more focus into what she was doing, in this case writing.  While talking she could direct her focus there and not on Twitter and IM and surfing and …  WebWorkerDaily suggests that it isn’t trying to multitask but the temptation to that is the killer:

The challenge isn’t in taking in all that visual stimuli. We can do that. We know what we’re looking at, even when there’s a lot to see at one time. Regardless of how much we can process visually, we process much less simultaneously with the other senses. It’s not multitasking that’s the enemy, it’s peripheral vision. Right now, I’m looking at this text field in Wordpress, but I know it wouldn’t take much for that Twitterific window at the far corner of my 2nd display to pull my attention when I catch it updating out of the corner of my eye.
Source: Web Worker Daily » Blog Archive Your Eyes Want You to Multitask. Resist! «

Solutions?  Maybe turning off and bringing focus isn’t a bad thing.  I have MSN, Skype, Gtalk (Twitter, mostly), Outlook, IE … yada, yada, yada running.  Let’s not even get into the phones that might ring or the stuff rattling around in my head …

While I think Suw is right, and speech-to-text is a great thing for writing and ideas, maybe the real solution is just admitting that we can’t do it all at once and a little directed focus can be a good thing.


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POSTED IN: GTD, Staying Sane, Worklife Balance, Survival Skills

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