“Executive functioning or prioritized multitasking”

Diablogue #16

Christina and Ken writing Blog 16 at their neighbourhood Tim Hortons cafe!
Christina and Ken writing Blog 16 at their neighbourhood Tim Hortons cafe!

Helpful Hint: Always attempt to work to your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses.


So, let’s diablogue:

Christina: So, what’s executive functioning? I know it happens in the frontal cortex, which fully develops in the brain around age 25. That’s why teenagers are such trouble—they have urges and ideas and power but no assimilation in their thinking—they can’t make good choices.

Ken: One of the definitions of multitasking is prioritization. For example, to me, each receives equal importance. None are higher than the others. The most important task is the one I am looking at that moment. If somebody introduces another task, it’s a like a Lazy Susan, the new task becomes the priority. If you do this again, it repeats. That for me, and for  other Aspies, is where we have trouble with prioritisation.

Christina: Yes. But that trait can be handy for me! If I want you to change tasks, all I have to do is dangle the preferred one in front of your eyes, and like a bird attracted by something shiny, you’ll go to it! So what about multitasking?

Ken: Challenges with multitasking are directly related to the ability or lack thereof to prioritize. We can, in fact, multitask in a linear fashion, unlike non-Aspies who tend to multitask in a lateral fashion.

Christina: You can fix a whole bunch of computers all at once at lightening speed—I’ve seen it—but if I break in and ask you an unrelated question it messes you right up. You have trouble getting going again.

Ken: Correct. I have to very quickly go through the steps from step one to determine where I left off in order to continue. Which is why it is physiologically uncomfortable and jarring. An interruption feels like a car travelling at 60 miles per hour punching into a brick wall.

Christina: But in the computer example, the computers are doing different things. There are different problems… I don’t get it exactly….

Ken: It’s a like a team sport and I’m the coach. Everybody is playing the same game, but they have different moves, different actions, and require different input.

Christina: So how does the challenge with multitasking affect an Aspie’s life?

Ken: Our challenges with prioritization that can make it difficult to gain employment and maintain employment. And, if one is fortunate enough to be employed, then the challenge causes a great deal of angst. That is because the world wants everyone to multitask in everything all of the time.

Christina: That’s probably true. Although I never really notice it. So what is lateral multitasking? The regular kind—like what I do?

Ken: There is nothing regular about what you do! (Both laugh) You linearly and laterally multitask, interchangeably all at the same time, and I am jealous.

Christina: That gave me a headache to hear!

Ken: Lateral multitasking is like a foreman’s ability to meet with the owner, meet with the contractors, assign work to the employers, consult with the engineers, look after scheduling and payroll, and make sure parts and inventory are taken care of. All at the same time—switching them up back and forth all day. And they never have to retrace their steps.

Christina: Yeah. I do that. No problem. It’s the mark of an overachieving woman, methinks! (laughs).

Ken: On the other hand, for Aspies, not being able to multitask can be a strength. It allows extreme focus and attention to detail. It allows us to see detail and find solutions that may be overlooked by non-Aspies.

Christina: Right.

Ken: One detriment to that super focus, though, is lack of time awareness.

Christina: You mean….

Ken: ….when I am fixing a computer, I will become so focused on the task I lose all track of time.

Christina: Yeah.

Ken: Another contributor to my lack of time awareness is my absolute obsession to fix the computer right the first time. Dogged perseverance will not let me stop until I reach this goal, often pushing me over the expected timeline—whether my own or someone else’s. This leads to scheduling and organization challenges.

Christina: I’ve seen that a lot.

Ken: However, I never have to do the same repair twice. Multitaskers have the ability to manage several customers at the same time. On the other hand, they have a lot more returns—customers who come back with the same issues on their computer.

Christina: You’re famous for that: fixing it right. Staying with it until it’s fixed right. In our family, anyway!

Ken: Unfortunately yes (laughs). This leads to extremely high personal standards that even I cannot always attain.

Christina: It’s a shame because anything less than perfect…

Ken: ….hurts, I mean physiologically hurts.

Christina: Yeah. But what I was going to say is that to you, anything less than perfect is not good enough. When really it is. You can’t process “it’s good enough.”

Ken: Correct. I would say, it is just not good enough. This reminds me of a very poignant quote from an important late mentor of mine, Dr. Jack Kendal. He stated: “You can do a few things very well, or many things poorly.” And that has resonated with me ever since.

Christina: That explains Aspies.

Ken: Affirmative.

Christina: We know that one of the best workarounds for problems with prioritizing and multitasking is the pilot’s checklist that Temple Grandin talked about—and we reported on it in the 6th blog I think.

Ken: Yes. As you do the steps, 1., 2, 3, etcetera, you put a check in the box. Therefore, you don’t have to loop all the way back to the beginning when you get interrupted. You simply look at the checklist, see what numbered box you have not checked off, and proceed.

Christina: Ok. What should we talk about next week?

Ken: Contradictions, such as high vocabulary and poor spelling.


Next post #17 ~ “An Aspie’s Confounding Contradictions”