Multitasking as Necessary 'As Air'

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It’s lately become fashionable to lament the effects of the Internet by writing about it on the Internet. Irony aside, it’s clear that such pieces from the New York Times and Nicholas Carr have struck a chord with Web-drenched readers who feel their concentration slipping away. But by condemning skimming, switching, and multitasking, are we forgetting all the upside?

That’s the contention of David Silverman, an entrepreneur and writer for the Harvard Business Review. He takes a business perspective on multitasking, arguing that overseeing a project requires the kind of constant task-switching that the Internet facilitates. Moreover, "unitasking" in a business setting can have adverse consequences by shutting down communication. He lists four reasons why multitasking is necessary:

1. Multitasking helps us get and give critical information faster.

2. It keeps others from being held up.

3. It gives you something to turn to when you're stuck.

4. The higher up you are in the organization, the more important multitasking is.

Beyond that, Silverman believes that whether we "pretend" otherwise or not, multitasking is inescapable. Or as he puts, "The truth is, we need multitasking as much as we need air."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.