There’s this lady I know who prides herself as being an accomplished marketing executive who always has things that’s constantly on the go. She’s capable of organizing conference calls, administering seminars and meetings, replying to e-mails and texts, responsible for social media, in charge of reacting and replying to the latest issues.
She’s always bound full of energy and is extremely proud of her ability to be able to efficiently multitask at once. Her accomplishments on a daily basis keeps her business situated and focused, all because of her office management savvy.
Since she also has an interest in psychology, she’s aware that the human mind is the single most complex as well as one of the most misunderstood of objects. The brain being able to adapt on the fly is the primary reason why the human species has been able to evolve, survive and become the most dominant creature on the planet. But what may be commonly overlooked is that the brain also has it’s limitations, as in stress tipping points.
You’re As Good As Your Computer
The most often heard complaint that’s usually heard in the high tech world is, “Damn, my computer is too slow,” which is a common refrain that’s often heard in any workplace situation.
When the personal computer first entered the business world and the office environment, Microsoft back then made the point that the software which drives the computer has the ability to handle several tasks at once. That selling point of the computer and its functionality was completely false however.
Instead of the computer being able to handle say 5 different tasks simultaneously at once, which is true multitasking, those slow computers back then spent it’s time performing the first task assigned, then the second, the third, the fourth, and finally the fifth task, which usually looped over each other until everything was finally completed. Not very efficient at all and it took a while.
It was extremely inefficient and took longer than it should since the MS Windows OS was required to handled each of the tasks sequentially. This is still the reason why computers are relatively slow, or they freeze up.
The Computer Compared To The Human Brain
The personal computer was obviously designed to emulate the human brain. So the exact same inefficiency, whatever bogs down or freezes the computer slows down the brain as well. This occurs when it’s forced to divide its attention to do multiple tasks at once.
Although the world and mankind has evolved exponentially since the dawn of recorded time, yet the brain has not really improved that much from what our distant ancestors used centuries ago.
What has however evolved in the last couple of decades is that we’ve witnessed an explosion of new ground breaking technology, such as the Internet and wireless mobile smartphones, all designed to ease our lives.
More recently, we’ve been presented with instant messaging, social networking, breaking “real-time” news from twitter, or video from YouTube as the events unfold from across the world. What all this information overload does is it taxes our brain’s attention span closer to the breaking point.
The Brain Really Is Limited
Any external stimulus which grabs our attention needs to pass in singular form for our brains to process. This information is forced through our brain stem, in single file, one at a time, much like those old computers.
Then these single thoughts are forced to distribute themselves to the appropriate areas of the cortex to get the proper attention that’s required for that particular thought. So that could be reading a news report or solving a math problem which the brain needs to analyze.
It’s similar to aiming a flashlight in the dark. What we do is apply a “sensory map” which tells us what we’re dealing with. Then a “motor map” takes over which directs exploration out towards the outside world, and finally the “motivational map” which is concerned with salience and expectations. Our attention circuits, guides, inspects, listens, touches and then explores the problem.
So Back To Multitasking
We’ve all witnessed as well as heard about the dangers of texting while driving, as there are instances where drivers will veer directly into oncoming traffic, similar to if they were DUI.
There are also examples of individuals who are walking down the sidewalk, head tucked and are so preoccupied with their smartphones that they walk into and bang their heads on a lamppost.
What happens is they lose complete sensory perception and don’t pay attention to their immediate surroundings. Their minds become so distracted that they’re no longer in the “here and now,” making it easy to invite an accident.
What you may be able to do is multitask for a while, but you’re not able to keep it up forever. What happens is it begins to take too much energy and bandwidth from our brains than we actually have.
Managing Our Time Better
The biggest complain seems to be the over abundance of useless information which ties up our time. Time becomes our biggest resource and enemy, becoming our most valuable ally.
Our brains will continue to alert and reward us whenever our attention circuits get activated, getting us stimulated. The end result however is it may make it harder for us to fall asleep at night, but that’s just following protocol.
This is why smartphones and other convenient devices which are designed to save us time becomes so addictive. What they do is feed our stimuli with direct short-term dopamine highs. We’re now caught in a time vortex where everything is speeding up and beginning to go in a spiral.
Our work, family and friends are also constantly changing their minds at the very last moment, placing a halt to certainty. We’re now in constant standby mode, as we are now living in a society of flexibility where there’s no point in making plans.
So what advice is there for those who need to multitask. Studies have shown that common sense should always be used. People just think a lot deeper and are more focused when they’re not distracted as much. So at times, it’s better to just unplug yourself and recoup, only if for a short while.