In today’s life, we seem to be juggling all the time. We might need to “juggle” between screens at work to keep up with all the information at a given time. Away from work, our attention moves from virtual conversations to face to face exchanges and we must keep everyone happy, very much like a skilled performer keeping several juggling balls in the air.
Let us take a deeper look into commonly used expressions such as:
“I’m juggling my time between work and family” or
“I can barely juggle all the things I have to do”. It is important to understand the real human ability to balance multiple activities so we can stay healthy and happy.
Multitasking is like juggling balls
In his book The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha explains that the word multitasking first appeared in a paper written by IBM back in 1965. It was defined as
“the ability of a microprocessor to apparently process several tasks simultaneously”. He highlights the word apparently to point out that even computers cannot actually process several tasks at the same time. What they really do is time-sharing: only one task is active at a time but they are rotated many times every second.
For us humans, when we have the impression of multitasking because we can brush our teeth while finding the blue socks in the drawer, what we are really doing is taking tiny breaks from brushing our teeth to finding our socks and then taking tiny breaks from looking in the drawer to brushing our teeth. It’s just an illusion. We are juggling these two tasks. Our brain is like a computer processor, it cannot work on two tasks at the same time, it only schedules when each task gets a turn, giving the impression that they are both accomplished at the same time. He calls it the illusion of parallelism. Doesn’t it remind you of the illusion created by the performer juggling balls in the air?
Juggling chores vs Juggling attention
Being able to fit a bunch of activities into our daily routines is a very necessary art nowadays. Parents must be able to plan a timetable of afternoon activities for their children so that all of them can be dropped off and collected on time. Juggling afternoon activities is a valuable skill for any parent. The same can be said about completing a series of house chores in the most efficient manner. But when it comes to giving attention to the people you love, is it wise to juggle between replying to work emails and listening carefully to what the people in your personal life are communicating to you at a given moment?
For a performer to be considered good at juggling balls, he is not allowed to drop any ball or club or any other object he might be manipulating at any time. But, come on, if you drop a ball or a club is not a big deal. What about if you drop catching the real meaning of what a loved one was trying to communicate to you because you were time-sharing your attention in an attempt to multitask? It is better to stop juggling balls during the time you spend with the people that matter to you.
Now that you know how your brain really works, we hope you choose your juggling balls in a way that it enables you to fulfill your expectations about all the things you want to complete in your life, while at the same time you leave the breakable items like the love of those you count on out of your game.