I stink at grading. There. I said it.
It’s not that I provide inadequate feedback. While I sometimes err on the side of too much, I think I do formative assessment pretty well (now, if they’d only read my comments…). No, the problem is actually doing it. Part of the problem is my career-long battle with procrastination. But a key factor is my inability to just sit and do it. I have a similar problem with research writing. I’ll determine a time to do it… and then other stuff creeps in: adjusting my course prep; replying to e-mail; responding to inquiries from colleagues on various administrative matters; reading a news article that seems interesting. I tell myself I’m multitasking — and all of it is done in less-than fashion.
Multitasking sometimes works, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced it’s a myth bordering on a sick joke. In a 2008 issue of The New Atlantis, Christine Rosen writes about “The Myth of Multitasking.” She quotes one of the celebrated letters by 18th century British statesman Lord Chesterfield to his son: “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.” She also draws on the work of Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and author of CrazyBusy:
[I]n his book he calls multitasking a ‘mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.’ In a 2005 article, he described a new condition, ‘Attention Deficit Trait,’ which he claims is rampant in the business world. ADT is ‘purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live,’ writes Hallowell, and its hallmark symptoms mimic those of ADD. ‘Never in history has the human brain been asked to track so many data points,’ Hallowell argues, and this challenge ‘can be controlled only by creatively engineering one’s environment and one’s emotional and physical health.’
University of Colorado grad student Katie Shives suggests a possible solution in Inside Higher Ed‘s gradhacker blog. It is at once deceptively simple and possibly essential for professional productivity. Perhaps I’ll try it!
Katie Shives is a PhD candidate in Microbiology at the University of Colorado. During her free time she writes about microbiology-related topics at kdshives.com and on Twitter @KDShives.
Today I submitted my very first grant application to the NIH. Funny thing is, until yesterday I thought I had 6 days to submit. However, I did not factor in early submission deadlines, so thanks to a well-timed reminder from our Grants and Contracts office I suddenly realized I had less than 24 hours to finish a grant package with all of the supporting materials or else all of my hard work would be for nothing. How did I get it all finished in time (other than lots and lots of coffee)?
Or, as I like to refer to it “the lost art of doing one thing at a time.”
[more after the jump!]