I get caught up in trying to do too many things at once. All this multi-tasking does nothing more than take my memory away...how can one remember anything when one's brain is besieged by a thousand things to do?
For instance, the other day I was taking photos of a Grosbeak...one of the Fledglings who was part of a large group decided to interact with me on the Bird feeder. Taking photos is great, if it's the only thing I am focused upon.
But the phone rang at the same time. And so, while I was speaking on the phone, I was taking photos simultaneously. I couldn't let the Bird get away without capturing it in photos.
Except that my attention was diverted; I could not give the person who called my entire focus. As a result, I missed some important information the caller had to impart. And I had to call back, apologizing for my inattention.
And here's another example. Have you ever tidied the house, putting this and that item away, and later realizing you have no idea where you put it?
Somewhere safe, is all I know when I try and find that particular object.
And this would be because I am not focused on the moment, on the one item I am placing in its rightful spot. My brain is working overtime with thoughts of this and that and the other thing; the item in my hand is not part of what I am thinking about.
From Wikipedia on Human multitasking:
Since the 1990s, experimental psychologists have started experiments on the nature and limits of human multitasking. It has been shown multitasking is not as workable as concentrated times. In general, these studies have disclosed that people show severe interference when even very simple tasks are performed at the same time, if both tasks require selecting and producing action (e.g., (Gladstones, Regan & Lee 1989) (Pashler 1994)). Many researchers believe that action planning represents a "bottleneck", which the human brain can only perform one task at a time. Psychiatrist Richard Hallowell has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”
The term multitasking began with the computer, which is well able to open many windows, remember where it was directed to go...even remember which site one visited a few days ago. And much more...
When the brain has too much information, it is compelled to restart and refocus continuously. It actually takes more time to multitask. Some researchers believe the brain can be trained to do many things at once; others believe that multitasking is largely limited by the speed with which our prefontal cortex processes information.
But studies also show that while the brain can become adept at processing and responding to incoming information...it cannot truly multitask. And our brains are only capable of storing a limited amount of information in short term memory.
I have spoken with far too many people who all claim to be losing their memory. They aren't really...there is simply too much information coming at us from media and computers and cell phones and ipods and ipads and, and, and...
Author Steven Berlin Johnson describes one kind of multitasking....
“It usually involves skimming the surface of the incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially. That lets you cast a wider net, but it also runs the risk of keeping you from really studying the fish."
This is called continuous partial attention. And basically, this means we all skim the information coming our way, not studying anything in depth. Attention is spread more thinly...leaving a friend on the phone believing they may not be as important as the photo of a Bird.
My poor brain. I thought multitasking was a good thing...A friend told me the other day that on an application form she was filling out was a question about how well she multitasked.
Obviously the questioner did not do his research. Perhaps his question could have been how well the applicant could focus and concentrate.
Right now, the television is turned on to a talk show, I am writing, I answer the telephone, I go outside to check plants battered by a Hail Storm, I feed the Dogs...what on Earth do I think I'm doing?
I believe I am going to take time back. I am going to focus on only one thing at once. No more making dinner, feeding the Dogs, planting an Herb, talking on the telephone and answering an email...all at about the same time. I ask myself...have any of the above list been done with care and attention?
I am not in the moment when I do all those items at once. Rather, I feel scattered, only able to think about the next thing and the next thing and the next...
It is no wonder my memory is poor...I am only partially focused on any of the above. And without true focus, can I remember any of the details I need?
There is a saying I learned in Hospice. And that is when visiting a client, we are to leave our problems at the door. I am going to take this a step further. I am going to leave everything at the door, all the time, whilst I concentrate on one thing or activity.
Instead of living for whatever the next item on my list may be, I intend to stop living in the future. Time goes way too fast, as it is. Why, I ask myself, would I want to make it go any faster? At my age?
I see many elderly people who remember a goodly portion of their lives. In detail. Will I, at that age?
Multitasking...the computer is good at it.
Why not leave it there?