The Moment I Realised I Need to Do Less to Gain More
This week I heard something that I believe is going to change the way I do life – I think you should hear it too!
It was this podcast that really resonated with me ‘The Distracted Mind’. Check it out!
This podcast focuses on the enormous overload of information in the modern environment and how it’s causing us to constantly multitask - in turn forcing our brains to work in a way they are not readily able to.
LFCS associate consultant Alex recently wrote a 2-part blog series on Productivity’s Two Biggest Roadblocks; one of which was multitasking. This blog, reiterates the fact that multitasking is not more effective than focusing on one task at a time (unitasking).
Unitask: to do one thing at a time; opposite of multitasking (reference: urban dictionary).
When I really thought about it, I hadn’t considered how detrimental my multitasking-lifestyle might be.
If anyone has ever seen the fast-talking-conversation that is bounced between Rory and Lorelei Gilmore from the TV show Gilmore Girls; I often feel as though this is a rendition of the explosive activity in my mind. Not to mention what is happening outside my mind!
However… My issue is; whilst I know I shouldn't multi-task – I cannot seem to stop!
Why is it so hard for me to STOP multitasking? Is this a problem facing just me, or all young adults today?
Looking much further back; our hunter gather ancestors enjoyed a rate of information and technology progression which their brains could evolve along with. However, in today’s Information Age, life is changing so rapidly that our brains cannot possibly evolve to new ways of operating at the same speed. Research suggests that each day we are presented with and take in five times the amount of information as we did only 25 years ago!
I’ve noticed in myself when I sit down to try to read a book, trying to sit still and focus all of my attention into the one tasks feels squirmishly uncomfortable! I feel like ‘the force’ is drawing me to check my phone/email or investigate the latest update on social media (heaven forbid I should miss out on seeing a good cat meme!).
A study observing attention spans of people aged 16-25 reported that the average time this age group would spend on watching a YouTube video is just 23 seconds!!!
Keep in mind a lot of YouTube videos go for hours and yet this is the mean attention time of our teenager and young adult population. It seems we are now unable to stay still!
This made me think – what is happening in our brain?
Our attentional system isn’t doing anything wrong, it is simply trying to respond to all of the information we are presented with by rapidly shifting from one stimulus to the next. This rapid shifting is its way of coping with the environment. The problem with this, is that brain resources get used up and people get burnt out.
My lightbulb moment!! This actually made me feel really relieved to hear this – often by the end of the day I feel physically drained and I’ve often wondered why my brain cannot keep up!
So what now?
I feel like, by better understanding what my brain is dealing with, I can identify what I am trying to avoid. I am trying to avoid switching between tasks. I need to focus. Focus on the present information and what I can do in that moment. I will start small; I don't have to change everything overnight. Some of the things to attempt:
- Periods of the day without my mobile next to me
- Write down competing thoughts that pop into my mind and then return to them once my task is done
- Use a calendar to schedule time for different tasks
- Communicate with people so they know I’m having focus time
- Learn to have periods of the day when I allow my thoughts to daydream - daydreaming allows the brain’s attentional mode to reset and refresh
"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." – Alvin Toffler
Listen to The Distracted Mind podcast here: