Nothing interferes with my concentration. You could put on an orgy in my office and I wouldn’t look up. Well, maybe once.
– Isaac Asimov –
National Geographic is running a Series called Test Your Brain. The episode I recently watched demonstrated how adept our brains are at focusing on the task at hand, and how dismal we actually are at multitasking. By multitasking, I mean doing two tasks at the same time, both requiring complete attention.
This isn’t the same as ‘background tasking‘, where we are doing one thing mindlessly while doing another thing that requires attention (like eating dinner while talking to our spouse or cleaning the house while listening to music.) It also isn’t the same as ‘task switching’ where we are alternately doing several things (like typing a blog post and talking on the phone.)
This amazing ability to focus is why we accomplish the things we set out to do! We achieve our best work when we tune out distractions and concentrate on one thing.
There are times, however, when it is a good idea to check to see if the distractions might be of value to us. If we paid more attention to diversions, we would know how magicians do their tricks. We would be able to stop a pick pocket before they took our wallet. We would be good witnesses to what happened at an accident. And we would look both east and west when the sun is going down!
I suppose I could write more about multitasking, but my brain has headed off on the topic of diversionary tactics, and I fear it won’t be back before lunch time…