A few months back, we had a story about the downsides to constant multitasking, and wondered if, perhaps, today's society has been glorifying the ability to multitask at the expense of being able to actually spend time paying attention to any one thing. It appears such fears are spreading, as some fret about workers who never pay attention at meetings or conferences. Still, this seems like the type of problem that will eventually work itself out. First of all, it isn't really multitasking. Mostly, in those situations, the person's interest simply isn't being held by whatever else is going on in the room -- so it isn't so much about "multitasking" as it is about "alternative tasking." The person has mostly checked out of what's going on, finding something more valuable (in their minds) to spend time on. In other words, it's not about the person doing multiple things at once, but deciding that the task involving their laptop or Blackberry or mobile phone has priority over whatever is going on in the room. If this is really impacting someone's job, that should become clear over time. If they are unable to handle their job, in part because they get too focused on other tasks, then that shows up in their job performance -- and suggests, not that they multitask too much, but that they fail to focus on the appropriate tasks at the appropriate time.
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