Every night, while the bath is filling, I play fetch with my dog, Henry. All I need do is start the water, and no matter where Henry is, he comes running.
One night, I decided to multitask. I had Words With Friends, a scrabble-like game on my iPhone, going with two or three different players. I started the bath. Henry came running. Then, iPhone in one hand, ball in the other, I positioned myself at the top of the stairs. I tossed the ball and, as Henry took off, I quickly clicked on a game. Studying the small screen intently, I didn’t bother to keep up my usual banter with Henry. Hey, I was playing fetch. Wasn’t that enough?
Henry returned once, twice, three times… but each time a bit slower, until finally he just stopped and stared at me.
I have to admit; this wasn’t the first time I’d tried to multitask during our nightly game of fetch. And, it wasn’t the first time he’d reacted like this. However, it was the first time I realized Henry was trying to tell me something. He wasn’t having any fun. It wasn’t running after the ball that was important to him, it was those few minutes—the time it took to fill the bath—that he had me all to himself. I needed to Be Here Now for him.
So, I put aside my phone and played ball.
Society has led us to believe that multitasking is efficient. The truth is, it usually isn’t. The few seconds I had while Henry chased after the ball, were not nearly enough to think of a word, type in the letters, and click send. Henry was back before I’d even figured out what letters I had to play with…never mind all the options for playing them. In the end, neither game benefited. And sadly, my best friend suffered. All because I was too “busy” to be here now.
How many other relationships and tasks have I shortchanged by trying to multitask? How many have you?