When Multi-Tasking Is No Longer Enough: Enter Hyper-Tasking


I love technology and enjoy keeping a close eye on developing trends. The other day I was reading an article titled What hath Sprint wrought with Kyocera Echo? The article reviews Kyocera’s new phone that has two screens that function independently allowing a user to hyper-task. My first reaction was, “Heck yeah! That sounds like my kind of phone.” My second reaction was, “Really? Hyper-tasking? Was it really necessary to come up with a new term?”

This, of course, caused me to embark on a little Google investigation.

A little background: I’m what you might call a quintessential multi-tasker. I have two monitors at work (one that keeps my instant message and email windows open at all times, and another for everything else). Each of my browser windows regularly has multiple tabs open. And I switched from Apple to Android for, among other reasons, the ability to have multiple apps running at once. I always presumed these were the tell-tale signs of a multi-tasker. It wasn’t until I began this little investigation that I realized that I’m actually a hyper-tasker.

So what is a hyper-tasker? Sprint’s own customer research indicates “that 70% of people are watching TV in bed while doing some other activity on a laptop or texting on a phone. Also, 50% to 60% of young customers are doing multiple tasks at once.” Okay, that seems a little ambiguous. What else defines hyper-tasking?

Trendwatching.com identifies this phenomenon as “multitasking moving beyond the desktop and ferociously invading all aspects of daily life.” Which includes doing all sorts of things at once, “from simultaneously watching TV and surfing the Net, to conducting meetings over the phone while in the bathroom, to having coffees and lunch ‘on the go’, if not at one’s desk.” That’s me in a nutshell (minus the meetings from the bathroom, of course).

UrbanDictionary has a more light-hearted definition:

The simultaneous execution of an exceedingly large number of tasks. An otherwise unmanageable number of tasks that can be accomplished with an extreme level of concentration. aka taking multi-tasking to the Nth degree.

example: Look at him go! That MoFo is hypertasking like a Cray Supercomputer.

That’s all well and good. But did we really need another word for multi-tasking? Isn’t the premise still the same? You’re doing multiple things at once. There’s no upper limit on the definition of multi, is there? Just because we’ve added new technology that pushes the limits of how many things you can do at once, does that require a new term? And what’s the line between multi-tasking and hyper-tasking? How does one know when they’ve crossed the line into hyper-dom?

It’s certainly not uncommon to come up with new words for things as they get bigger (e.g., mega, giga, terra, etc.) or smaller (e.g., Apple’s ever-smaller iPod names like Mini, Nano, etc.). We’ve even been tasked with coming up with similar terminology for a lighter version of Photoshop that didn’t sound too diminutive. Hence, the product name Adobe Photoshop Elements.

But performing tasks is more abstract in nature. There doesn’t seem to be a measurable change in the absolute number of functions performed between multi and hyper. The term multi-tasking is still semantically appropriate, regardless of how many functions one performs or how many devices one uses to perform them. As technology evolves allowing us to do more, it would stand to reason that the definition of multi-tasking would shift accordingly.

Perhaps my resistance to the new term rests in the fact that I’ve become too comfortable being defined as a multi-tasker. It’s now clear to me that I most definitely qualify as a hyper-tasker (and then some). So, I suppose I’ll have to get used to my new identity as a hyper-tasker.

But let me ask this: What’s next? What happens when the new fandangled technology allows even more tasks to be simultaneously completed, such that hyper-tasking is no longer enough? We here at Catchword thought we would offer a few ideas for the next step in the multi-hyper-tasking evolution. And please, share your thoughts with us in the comments!

The new, next, mutli-hyper-tasking term:

  • Mega-tasking
  • Uber-tasking
  • Meta-tasking
  • Super-tasking
  • Myriad-tasking
  • Hella-tasking (West Coast represent!)
  • Wicked-tasking (Beantown in the house!)
  • Humungo-tasking
  • Giganta-tasking
  • Monster-tasking
  • Enormo-tasking


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