Over the last several years I have read many articles (popular as well as academic) that have consistently tried to educate people that multitasking is inefficient, error-prone and negatively impacts the mental health of the so-called multi-tasker.
However, we still receive job applications with resumes that highlight the multitasking skill of the applicant. So, I chased this a bit, and discovered that even consultants helping people apply for jobs advice them to highlight their multitasking skills (or is it a single skill?). I have also found ‘multi-tasking skill’ as a checklist item in the interview evaluation forms of a few organizations.
Evolution of the Multitasking concept
The word ‘multitasking’ first appeared in the description of the capabilities of an IBM computer (System/ 360) in 1965. People started using the word for human beings in the 1980s as a desirable skill and something that enhances productivity.
So, what is multitasking in human beings?
Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task, or activity, at the same time. The term is derived from computer multitasking.
In the last ten years, multiple controlled experiments and studies have been conducted to understand the concept of multitasking in humans. The research consistently shows that humans cannot pay attention to multiple things at the same time. So they are essentially doing rapid context switching. This increases the total time taken and also increases the errors. People who typically multitask, perform poorly (compared to people who do not typically multitask) even when they are asked to do tasks sequentially.
Continue reading “Is Multitasking Still a Skill to Boast About?”
The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet
Some days ago, while taking our usual morning walk at the nearby public park, we saw a small gathering of the regular morning walkers. Some of them beckoned us to join them. After the gathering had become sizable, one of the persons (Shanku) cleared his throat and said, “We are proud to announce that the new public toilet of this park will be soon inaugurated – thanks to all of you for the support.” he pointed to a newly erected set of green boxes, which were being given finishing touches. I was not sure of the support I had given, but decided against voicing it.
Attached is a picture of the toilet (appropriately masked/ hazed out to protect the privacy rights of the public toilet – by the way, do public toilets have privacy rights?).
Shanku continued, “We have invited an important officer of the municipal corporation – the DC of …. for the inauguration scheduled on the 15th of this month, at 10:00AM. I request that all of you remember to come for the inauguration.”
“By the way, this is one of the first virtual public toilets in Bangalore”. This elicited some minor clapping and murmurs of appreciation. After some time, a squeaky voice ventured, “But how does one do it virtually? I would prefer to physically use a toilet.” The appreciation changed to apprehension. Soon the confusion was cleared, it was meant to be an e-toilet, with the “e” representing some kind of automated flushing based on electronic sensors.
Shanku tried to regain the control with his next point, “It also has extensive security features – hidden CCTV cameras everywhere.” That resulted in more grumbling “they are going to take my photo while I am….?”. Again, after some consultation, it was clarified that the cameras were not hidden, and were placed just at the entrance to the toilet area.
Continue reading “The Complexities of Inaugurating a Public Toilet”
Musings on the use of the term “my bad”.
I first heard the term “my bad” many years ago. After my initial puzzlement, I figured that it was a new way of saying “my mistake” or “I am sorry”.
Over time I have realized that “my bad” is subtly different from “I am sorry”. “My bad” is usually accompanied by a casual flick of the wrist and a sardonic smile. If the head is full of bouncy hair, there also the optional toss of the head.
It is like the person is saying, “I have apologized, now don’t make a fuss about it.”
I suspect (without actual data), that many folks rehearse saying “my bad” in front of a mirror. They also deliberately make the minor mistakes in their work, or practice spilling coffee on the others – just so that they can say “my bad” in style.
I believe that the Corporate Communication team of a large organization is soon going to release a policy and guidelines document on the use of “my bad”. This is likely to be copy/pasted across the world eventually.
Continue reading ““My Bad” and its nuances”
Today, I re-dialed a “missed call” from an acquaintance, and got a busy tone with the message “this number is busy” in multiple languages.
I was about to cancel the call when I heard “Press ‘1’ to know more – we are piloting an analytics engine.”
I was intrigued, and pressed “1”. Here is what was conveyed (the gist):
“93% of the time, this subscriber disconnects his outgoing calls (gender confirmed through subscriber Profile data), before these calls are picked up. Most likely (86% probability), he is trying to save his call costs. He developed this habit earlier, but continues even when the free call limit is infinity.”
“His number is also busy most of time. That is because he is either inefficient in transacting his business quickly (34% probability) or is lonely and wants to prolong the conversation (43% probability), other reasons account for the rest of the probability.”
“If you can satisfy your requirements (information needs or your own need for chatting with someone) through other means, you are likely to be better off.”
“Press ‘2’ to know information about yourself – based on the pilot analytics engine”.
I automatically pressed ‘2’ before realizing my blunder. The disembodied voice continued:
Continue reading ““This Number is Busy” message with additional analytics”
Recently we went on a project to evaluate and buy a household appliance. Part of the sales pitch that we heard repeatedly was about warranties, with the phrase ‘lifetime warranty’ finding its way in the spiel.
I can understand the concept of warranty for a period of time (1-year, 2-years, etc.), but the concept of ‘lifetime warranty’ has me confused — I am not sure of whose ‘lifetime’ the warranty is valid for. For example:
Continue reading “Cartoon: Lifetime Warranty ~ Whose Lifetime is it Anyway?”
For anyone who stays in hotel rooms, the three pictures above would be familiar. They are the pictures of a mini-fridge inside a wooden cabinet. The cabinet is usually closed from all sides, except for a small hole/ slit for the wiring. This seems to be the case in all types of hotels, regardless of their “star” rating.
Continue reading “Fridge Inside a Cabinet: Design Thinking or Unthinking Designer?”
According to sources not willing to be identified, Bangalore traffic police is toying with the idea of imposing ‘invalid parking’ fine on all vehicles that are halted in traffic jams. The consulting firm that suggested this initiative projected that the annual collections will shoot up between 10.3 – 12.4 times their current collections.
It may also motivate the drivers who get stuck in jams to find innovative solutions to avoid traffic snarls.
Continue reading “Cartoon: New Revenue Source for Bangalore Traffic Police”
The CVV number is a 3 or 4 digit number (associated with a credit card) that is used for verification in case of Card Not Present (CNP) transactions. CVV stands for Card Verification Value and is also called Card Security Code (CSC), Card Verification Code (CVC), Verification code (V-code or V code), and Signature Panel Code (SPC).
CVV numbers are used to authenticate the card, as an additional security measure when the card is used in online transactions. It is like an ATM pin.
I am unable to understand why the CVV number is printed on the card, whereas the ATM pin is provided to the card holder separately.
Continue reading “Why is the CVV Number Printed on Credit Cards?”
Passports were earlier used as travel documents, to establish the holder’s country. With time, a passport has also increasingly become a proof of identity and address.
However, passports have an expiry date, and upon renewal, a new passport is issued with a new passport number. This is extremely inconvenient, as one now needs to remember the new passport number while filling travel documents (every time one enters and exits a country) and sometimes at other places in a foreign country. Additional mess can be created if the passport renewal date and travel dates are close to each other, or there are valid visas on the old passport (to which passport number is the visa attached? :=( ).
Continue reading “Why Does the Passport Number Change when Renewed?”
Many of us who work in offices sit for more than 8-10 hours a day. We sit for our breakfast, we sit during our commute, we sit for long stretches at our desks, we sit with our coffee/ tea during the breaks, we sit for our lunch, we sit in meetings, we sit on our way back home, we sit during dinner and watch TV while sitting. And many times we sit continuously for more than 2 hours without getting up.
Being able to sit is also a status symbol that displays higher education and higher income / wealth. People who are more educated typically have jobs that require them to be on desks; richer people do not walk to bus stops and train stations, nor do they walk to shopping centers or coffee shops.
Over the last few years there has been a concerted movement in some countries (like Australia) to encourage people to sit for lesser time during the day, reduce continuous sitting, and increase time standing and moving. However, this movement has not yet picked up any steam in India.
Summary of the Findings
Prolonged sitting has been linked with multiple health concerns like obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood-sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. It also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Sitting more than 6 hours a day may be as bad as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.
Continue reading “Don’t Just Sit: Stand, Walk, Move!”