Feb 24, 2009
Clearly we are a culture of jugglers.
Whether working with my executive coaching clients or talking with participants in our keynotes and workshops, without a doubt most people are feeling overwhelmed with too much to do and not enough time to do it.
So we multitask. Or so we think.
One of my favorite books from last year is Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina. I'm a card carrying geek in a number of categories, one of which is learning about how the brain works.
Just think how much better we could learn, communicate, influence, and more if we really understood how the brain operated. That's what Brain Rules is all about.
One of my favorite lines from the book says, "If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle!" Though you can find plenty of pundits that will pontificate about the collaborative benefits of cubes, I've yet to find a brain expert that backs that up!
As the subtitle of the book states, Brain Rules has 12 principles to help people better understand how the brain works. The 4th rule is Attention: We don't pay attention to boring things. Dr. Medina discusses how we are better at seeing patterns and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording details. He also illustrates how emotional arousal helps the brain learn--emotions help keep our attention and burn the memory in.
But Dr. Medina's discussion on multitasking is what really caught my attention. Bottom line: the brain's attentional spotlight can focus on only on thing at a time. There is no such thing as multitasking.
You and I might argue, "How can this be? I'm multitasking all the time!" Dr. Medina goes into all the brain scientist geek material to back up his assertion. And here's why it all matters. Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50 percent longer to accomplish a task. Not only that, he or she makes up to 50 percent more errors.
I say this fully aware that you might be listening to this cast while you're driving. Be careful as it's not just cell phone calls that distract you while driving!
Whether in the car or in the workplace, distractions are taking their toll. As someone who is passionately interested in helping people get more done with less stress, this whole topic strikes a nerve with me.
Which leads me to another recommended brain book entitled The Myth of Multitasking, written by Dave Crenshaw.
Dave is our guest on this cast and shares insights on why multitasking actually hurts our productivity. During the interview Dave encourages you to take a free multitasking test on his website at:
Don't miss the free offer at the end of the cast! Here's to a very focused day for you! Thank you for subscribing to the People and Projects Podcast!