Read a great article about multi-tasking…which follows up an interesting neuroscience book I recently read that covered the topic as well. Studies and research show that the human brain is simply not wired for effective and efficient multi-tasking. The recent article I read in Psychology Today suggests it’s really better labeled task-switching. However, there are things we do simultaneously like watch tv while we talk on the phone and eat a snack. In any case, we lose efficiency when we multi-task (or task-switch).
In his book, The New Brain, Dr. Richard Restak suggests that studies have found just a handful, if that, of activities that produce better results when done together. One of them is listening to music while working with your hands. This was tested on surgeons by providing them with headsets and having them listen to music while operating. The results were positive and it even produced a short list of songs that seemed to be optimal. One of these was Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The reason for this, without getting super technical is that the parts of the brain that work to listen to music and use your hands seem to compliment each other – SUPER simply put.
Anyway, long story short, the point is that we are just not wired to focus on more than one thing. The challenge for me is finding a way to not look at my cell phone when I sit down to work. What works for me is turning the phone on airplane mode. But I still use the iPhone so that I can listen to my ILuvMozart app while I read and work which has plenty of other distracting apps. I’m getting better at managing the distractions and the results are always VERY positive. I find I get my best work done when I give myself an hour or two of uninterrupted focus.
Perhaps this is what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi means when he talks about flow. 🙂 I am most definitely working on achieving more flow in my life and my work.
Here is my little Starbucks table full of distractions…not to mention all the apps running on my MacBook Pro. (Fortunately I used my cell phone to take the pic – so that’s one less that shows up)