On Multitasking

When I was in high school, I worked at a vet clinic. It is more or less one of the reasons why I have awesome skills at things that are not super important to life (such as walking dogs and making surgery packs* – I haven’t made surgery packs in a long time but I’m sure if you gave me the necessary tools, I would still be awesome at it. For that matter, I haven’t walked a dog in a long time either but I’m sure if you gave me a dog and a leash, we would be walking pretty in no time…) and also why I have some odd quirks (such as I can’t handle the Smurfs theme song… a story for a different day…). Anyway, working at the vet was pretty much the perfect job for my high school self because I love animals and also because at the time, I wanted to go to vet school (why I am now in grad school is also a story for another day…). So as I was working at being awesome at making surgery packs, walking dogs, giving cats baths, etc, my boss would come up with tips for me for when I went to vet school. One of the best tips was that a vet needs to multitask so I should practice multitasking.

I was thinking about that the other day in lab when I was doing two experiments at the same time. They both had 1-4 hour breaks and so I would work on the other one during the first one’s breaks and vice versa. It had the potential to end terribly (both breaks are over at the same time so how do you choose which to work on first?!) but I think it worked out okay. What’s funny is that on top of it all, I was chatting with some of my friends on Gmail’s chat feature and looking up wedding stuff during the times when both experiments had breaks. I believe that is the ultimate multitasking experience right there. The only thing that could have topped it would have been also being on the phone I guess. My old boss would be proud of my multitasking skills.

I wonder though if it’s good to have your brain spread out to so many different activities at once. It might of course lead to mistakes (doing the next step for the wrong experiment, looking up wedding stuff in the chat window, etc) but it might also lead to extreme exhaustion and a need to constantly be doing too many things at once (I might start to feel lazy doing only one experiment at a time). It’s something to think about I think in our overworked society…

Anyway, your assignment: tell me about the craziest multitasking you have ever done and how it worked out for you. Complete failure, total success, or somewhere in between? Are you multitasking while reading this post?

About the picture: Another “cool” thing from working at a vet is that now I own a lot of scrub tops and pants. Pictured here is a younger Potassium (16 to be exact) and her best friend T (and T’s awesome dog) dressed up for Halloween in scrubs…

* for you non vet people out there, a surgery pack is the tools that you need for a specific surgery all folded into a neat little package and sterilized. I was very good at the organizing of all the tools to make it into the smallest package ever. I think it has to do with the perfectionist in me.

3 thoughts on “On Multitasking

  1. I am totally doing cell culture while reading this post. My cells are incubating in trypsin.
    Multitask = life of a scientist. :)

  2. Awww that picture! I love how Annie is just cruising through the frame, “Whatever, I’m walking over to the kitchen table so I can take a nap under it.”

    I am a terrible multitasker. If I’m doing things that don’t really matter, like dinking around on the internet, text messaging, gchating and listening to music I do ok, but when I need to focus things get tougher. Reading (usually pretty dry stuff) doesn’t lend itself well to multitasking for me, even since undergrad. If I actually need to retain information I need to be in a quiet place armed with colored gel pens, highlighters and post-it notes.

    Right now for instance I have four tabs open in firefox, three podcasts downloading, toenail polish drying, and laundry going. When paper writing commences I usually have to disable the internet to be able to get anything done :)

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