'Multi-tasking' has never been enough of a catch-all to describe the non-automatic processing that goes on in life. Sure, we all manage to do several things at once. But what about the fact that we tend to pay several things continuous partial attention most of the time?
Writer Linda Stone, a former senior executive at Apple and Microsoft, has just nailed it.
In the Harvard Business Review's annual survey of emerging ideas, Stone presents the idea of 'Living with Continuous Partial Attention':
constantly scanning for opportunities and staying on top of contacts, events and activities in an effort to miss nothing. It's an adaptive behavior that has emerged over the past two decades, in stride with Web-based and mobile computing......The assumption behind the behavior is that personal bandwidth can match the endless bandwidth technology offers.
'Personal bandwidth'? What a brilliant idea!
I spend so much time online and in psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's mental state of flow, it's becoming hard to discriminate between real and virtual experience. There are intermittent, unfinished SMS conversations going on on my phone. A call waits on Skype. And I've headphones on, listening to a playlist. All engage my continuous partial attention.
Aside from needing to get a life, what's my 'personal bandwidth'? What's yours? It's width? And where are the edges?