President's Message

Posted by: Tricia Derr on May 1, 2014

By Tricia M. Derr



Monday Morning:  I have a fairly light schedule this week.  This will be a GSD week! (GSD = “get done.”)  I start making up my “to do” list.  This takes all day… 


Tuesday:  I organize my office and make a dent in my Lawyers’ Weekly pile, multitasking the entire time.  I’ll start checking things off my “to do” list tomorrow – first thing.  In fact, I’ll wake up super early. 


Wednesday 9 a.m.:  The bus is late, so I am late.  So what?  I have all day to catch up.  I return phone calls, respond to e-mails and meet with team members who have been trying to GSD themselves (except that they have been patiently waiting for me). 


Thursday:  I check off a few things (or two), including scheduling my son’s nine-year old well visit to the pediatrician (only it turns out, he didn’t have his eight-year old well visit until he was almost nine, so I have to wait another five months).  Regardless, my “to do” list is now pared down to 48 items instead of 50.  I decide to celebrate by taking my daughter to gymnastics (once I figure out where it is).  I call my husband to get the details.  I’ll need to leave work by 4 p.m. No sweat. 


3:50 p.m.:  I’m on schedule.  Computer bag packed.  I’m walking out the door. 




“I’ll just look to see who it is.”  Surely, I can resist the temptation to answer -- except, I’ve got to take this call.  I have 10 minutes before I’m “technically” supposed to leave.  I’ll be quick.   


4:15 p.m.: Text to husband: "Can U take TC to gymnastics? Sorry L!"


4:15 p.m.: Response from husband: "Already there J!" 


By the time I hang up the phone, it’s Friday.  My May MCB article is due.  Already?  I’ll ask for an extension.  I open an e-mail and begin typing “R-h-.”  The “to” line populates “Rhea Kelley.”  I’ve done this before.  


“I’ll GSD all weekend,” I tell myself, reassuringly.


Like the movie Groundhog Day, I repeat this exercise in futility week after week.  “Busy” or “not busy,” I realize, is a distinction without difference. 


So, I sit here today – Sunday – in GSD failure purgatory.  I decide that I will figure out how to end this cycle for me and the rest of the entire Mecklenburg County Bar.  Of course, that takes some internet research.  I end up on LinkedIn.  No, no, no.  Refocus. 

Turns out, I’m not alone.  Inefficient multitasking has been the subject of much consideration and study by psychologists.  One study, released in June[1], evaluated multitasking behavior in college students who were “doing homework” over a three-hour period.  Using multiple surveillance methods, researchers learned that the average college student experienced 35 separate distractions over a three-hour “homework” period.  They were “off task” for approximately 26 minutes and averaged 73 minutes of distraction listening to music.  If you count listening to music as “off task,” the students engaged in actively “doing homework” for only about half of the time.  Interestingly, self-reported fatigue generally increased with time investment while positive affect and task motivation decreased.  While the study did not specifically address performance, I can only imagine that with increased fatigue and decreased motivation, work product suffers. 


I visit coaching websites to figure out how to better manage my time, but a Facebook message pops up.  Today is Becky’s birthday.  I quickly wish her a “happy birthday” and find myself scrolling down the page. 


Ah--hem… I interrupt myself. 


The time management websites suggest that I “do one thing at a time,” “don’t allow interruptions,” “prepare a daily to-do list” (which ironically caused this calamity).  I’m supposed to “manage e-mail interruption” by “putting down the tech” (the same “tech” that I need, incidentally, to do my job).


Gee, thanks.  THAT was helpful.  I conclude my research.  I look at the word count on my article.  709 words.  I check off another task on my “to do” list. 


Wow!  After all that, I can GSD!  I decide to change nothing. 


[1]Charles Calderwood, et al., What else do college students “do” while studying?  An investigation of multitasking, COMPUTERS AND EDUCATION Vol. 75, June 2014, 29-29.