I loathe the very word with its self-important, mutlisyllabic tut-tutting of schoolmistress- or drill-sergeant-inspired legalism; with its hidden "tit" and its phony "asking" and its stern "ulti"matum and its usurping pretender "king." And I despise the word's very origins, which describe the functions of a computer's central processing unit, as if we and our brains were no more than CPUs dressed up in so much flesh and neural wiring. And most of all I detest the reality of multitasking.
Quite simply, I ain't built for it. Call it ADHD, genetics, impatience, zen, Luddite Syndrome, or Old School, but it drives me to distraction. (Well, by definition, multitasking thrives on distraction, doesn't it? That's the secret fun of its legion of admirers.)
E-mails, phone calls, oral requests, written demands on real paper, taps on the shoulder, cellphone messages, electrodes attached to the cerebral cortex. Sort it all out. Prioritize (another loathsome word; why not rank?) it all. Do it all now. Do it all at once. Do it all perfectly.
At work we are besieged, inundated, swamped by multiple tasks competing for our attention and action. It's almost enough to send me packing, out the door, strolling off with a secret smile. Job ads clamor for candidates who excel at multitasking, as if proficiency in this were a badge of valor, an iconic medal of honor for those bloodied but unbowed in the mercantile wars.
I suppose so-called multitasking (also termed "engaging in polychronistic activities") has its place (you sex fiends out there will suggest soixante-neuf). I suppose real battlegrounds, ICUs, and homes may be suitable venues for multitasking ("honey, can you hold on that orgasm while I text back my boss on those merger numbers?").
But multitasking (hyphenated or not) is not for me.
Besides, does the pitcher pitch and bat simultaneously? Does the quarterback throw and receive at the same time? Does the pilot take off and land concurrently? Can a president (ahem, this president) successfully think and talk simultaneously? Should a soloist perform ensemble?
I say, do one thing and do it right, rather than five things simultaneously and shittily.
But that's little ol' me. Alas, I recognize I am sadly out of step with the modern world. (Or still haven't recovered from vacation.)
That's why I like the Latin phrase I suggest as an antidote for this current rage:
Age quod agis --
which means, "Do what you are doing" (and presumably, not something else at the same time).
Now, back to work, folks!