A new book comes out tomorrow by Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist from McGill University, called “The Organized Mind”. In this book he discusses information overload. He makes a bold statement; “multitasking is a myth, an illusion”. That is a conclusion I reached many years ago! The brain is very good at self deception so we don’t realize it.
He suggests that instead of doing many things at once we are actually “Sequential Tasking”. This means doing one thing after another but we are fractionating attention so we’re not able to really put attention into one thing.
Sequential Tasking produces stress hormones; overstimulates the brain causing mental fog; fragments concentration and stimulates cortisol production. In the end we’re not saving time we are wasting time. He suggests that we focus on one thing at a time and keep sustaining that.
Another good suggestion is to get ideas out of our head and into the external world. Write them down so you won’t forget. If you lose your keys put a hook by the door and you never have to lose them again. He also says to use phone apps to remind yourself of things so you can release them from your mind.
He talks about 2 modes of attention: task positive network is the first. This is where we are focused on a task. The second is day dreaming mode. We are most apt to come up with creative solutions to problems. If we focus on a task all the time without taking breaks we lose the opportunity to be creative and fix problems.
“A 60 hr workweek reduces productivity 25%
A 10 minute nap=extra 90 minutes sleep per night
Daydreaming increases brain connectivity”.
In studying highly successful people he concluded:
“-they don’t wast more time on a decision than it’s worth.
-they follow David Allens two minute rule: If you can get it done in 2 minutes or less do it now. That way all the little things don’t pile up.
-prioritize on a daily basis.
-don’t get bogged down on mundane matters.
-narrow your attention filter.
-understand how to make efficient decisions”.
He considers Air Traffic Controllers as multi-taskers by necessity. He suggests that we follow their guidelines: for every hour of multi- tasking they must take 15-30 minute breaks to hit the reset button in their minds.
“-the brain is 2% of body weight=20% of our energy use.
-the processing capacity is 120 bits per second”.
His final thoughts on email habits:
“-don’t check more than 3 times daily.
-it created dopamine addiction feedback loops.
-leads to decision overload”.
An organized mind leads to a longer healthier life. If our work is efficient we can close the door on work. Then we are free to come home, relax and have fun with family and friends.
Dr. Levitin’s book is available on Amazon.