Guest Post: Modern Reading: Can You Multitask your Way There?

June 11, 2012

It seems like it’s more and more difficult to pick up a book and concentrate on it these days. I remember when I was younger, I would sit and read a book cover to cover, completely engrossed, only putting it down to attend to absolute necessities. But now I find myself buying books and starting them, only to get distracted halfway through by life in general, or another book entirely. We hear constant chatter on the news about modern conveniences leading to a more distracted, multitasking mindset. As quick as we may be to dismiss these claims, I find myself wondering whether my current go-go-go lifestyle has hindered my enjoyment of the simple process of reading a book. And, if that’s the case, what can I possibly do about it?

It’s definitely true that our minds work in accordance with the way we live. I find myself getting online and flitting about from one thing to the next, trying to take in and keep track of everything at the same time, all while trying to get significant research or writing accomplished. As much as multitasking in this way feels natural to me now, I have to admit, sometimes I do feel distracted and wish for a little more simplicity, or, at least, a short break from the constant stream of information available.

Reading, for me, has been turning into a similar arrangement. I no longer have the time to sit down with a book for hours. Instead, I tend to read a half-chapter or so after lunch or while waiting to pick the kids up from school. I will divide my reading between three books of current interest, instead of reading one from cover to cover and starting the next. And, after all this, even though I am reading quite a bit, I still feel as though I’m never fully reading anymore.

So, what can be done about this modern approach to one of my favorite pastimes? Is multitasking a good way to go about reading? Do I need to change my lifestyle or simply the way I read? Is it possible to still read in a way that feels good and go about my modern, multitasking life at the same time?

It seems like the real problem with multitasking is the fact that it distracts from the possibility to become completely lost in a book. You need to put it down to get on with other things and, by the time you pick it back up, your mind has been distant for so long that you lose time remembering where you left off and working to catch back up. Because of this, multitasking leaves us much more inclined to just ditch a book altogether, leaving it on the nightstand to collect dust.

At the same time, multitasking, even in reading, can often be a positive. Our minds are able to change and mold to new situations and information. Is this really a bad thing? Even though I spend my time doing ten different things at once doesn’t mean I don’t get them done. And maybe there is nothing wrong with using reading time as a way to take breaks between tasks to reenergize and relax.

Ultimately, it seems that the way information is presented to us is not going to change any time soon. We now have access to more information than ever before, and, because of that, the way we take things in has naturally begun to adjust. If you’re like me, though, and you dislike the way this is affecting your reading, there is one way around it that I can see: take control. Just because we are offered information at a constant pace doesn’t mean we need to take it in that way. There are plenty of ways to take control of the way we access information and divide our time. Maybe, instead of worrying about how multitasking is negatively affecting my ability to read, I need to simply stop multitasking the things that I love, and only multitask the things that suit me.

It seems as though the only logical solution to my problem is to trust my gut and spend my time in a way that is most productive and feels most natural to me.  And this probably goes for everyone. The needs of every individual will be different, but it seems like pinpointing that balance will be a top goal for most of us in the future.

Despite a modern push to fit reading (and everything else) into a jam-packed, constantly multitasked schedule, we don’t actually have to read that way. Like all things we love, it’s important to give priority where it deserves to be given and go about fulfilling our passions in whatever ways work best for us.

Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, lifestyle and health. As an education writer, she works to provide helpful information on the best online colleges and courses and welcomes comments and questions via email at blauren 99 @gmail.com.

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