Posts Tagged ‘multi-tasking’

I want you the think of the busiest road in, or near, your town. I mean crazy busy. Think of a road where there is a tremendous amount of traffic, both sides of the road are littered with billboards, hundreds of businesses line the road with distracting signs, traffic lights interrupt your driving every few hundred yards and there are people crossing the street at busy intersections. Your eyes dart from one distracting stimulation to the next, not knowing what to focus on. It feels crowded, crazy and hectic.


Got that picture, and hectic feeling, in your mind?




That is the typical mind these days. Between the multitudes of tasks we are responsible for each day, the multitude of interruptions our electronic devices provide, the overwhelming number of emails we receive, and the multitude of other thoughts and worries that fill our heads, that busy street is what our brain feels like. It is a crazy, hectic street where we are unable to focus on any one specific thing.


And that is only what our conscious mind registers and deals with! Our subconscious mind is processing many more times the information you consciously see. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that the conscious mind processes 2,000 bits of information per second, while the subconscious mind processes 400 billion!!


Essentially that means that you aren’t really aware of all the information and distractions flooding into your head.


BUT . . . what this also points to is the amazing volume of unused processing power many of us are wasting if we do not let our subconscious mind work on some of your daily challenges. If you are constantly running around, doing things and filling your day with activities or “to do” lists, there is no way you can perform at your optimal levels.


If you truly want to improve your performance, focus and success, you need to find a quiet, less busy street so that your subconscious mind has some time and space to go to work.


Here are 3 things you can do to create a quieter street for your brain.


  1. Turn off all email/text/Facebook/Twitter notifications when working on important tasks. Trust me, the world will not end if you do this. You must stop being at the beck and call of the world and start setting your own schedule in order to create your life and your success.
  2. Clear the clutter from your home, workspace and life. You won’t know the impact this has until you do it, but the subconscious mind is taking in all that clutter and trying to process it. And in doing so, it is clogging the neurons in your brain that you want to access and use to think about and create greater success and peak performance.
  3. If you have been stumped by a problem and just can’t seem to reach that breakthrough or solution, give it a rest and let your subconscious go to work. Take time to go for a run, meditate, go for a bike ride, sit quietly, take a nap, hike, take a bath or whatever it is that clears your mind and allows the subconscious to go to work on your challenges and problems. Doing so always produces a possibility or idea to move you closer to the success you want.


“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

– Hans Hoffman


It seemingly goes against conventional wisdom to do less in order to do more. But out of that simplicity, clarity emerges. And from that clarity, direction emerges. And from that direction, focus emerges. And from that focus, achievement emerges. And from that achievement, success is found.


You can choose to stay on that busy road if you want, but if you do, consciously realize what you are risking by doing so.


There is no doubt that science has played a HUGE role in revealing the power of the subconscious mind. There is probably no greater experiment, or scientist, that has played a larger role in establishing the importance of this power than the one demonstrated in the video below. ūüôā

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A few years back some studies were conducted on how we work.  The studies found that every 11 minutes we are interrupted by a phone call, colleague, text message, instant message, email or any of the other numerous possible interruptions.  This is probably not news as you likely experience this everyday, whether you are a busy executive or a busy mom.


The challenge, however, is that the studies also found that it took the brain at least 11 minutes to refocus on the task at hand.  I think we can all see the problem here.  Just as we are about to refocus, we are interrupted again.  The concept of focused thought and attention has disappeared in our technology-driven society.


In other studies the fallacy of multi-tasking was further debunked.  Humans, in fact, cannot focus on many tasks at once.  Research shows that we can effectively focus on only 2 tasks.  After that our effectiveness is greatly diminished and focus disappears.  


This new “focus” was called continuous partial attention where we engage in switchtasking; the act of rapidly going back and forth from one task to another in microbursts of attention.


Most people wear their assumed ability to multi-task as a badge of honor and companies award jobs like prizes to those who can successfully demonstrate this lack of focus best.  The more things one can do at the same time, the better an employee they must be.


Yet, the research demonstrates that when someone multi-tasks work actually takes longer and the quality is inferior.  A 2005 study by Hewlett-Packard found that workers who were continually distracted by e-mail and phone calls showed an effective drop in IQ equal to twice that of those using marijuana.


In our world today, we seem to have confused being busy with being productive. ¬†Multi-tasking may allow you to get a lot of things done, but the real question is, “Are you doing them well?”


(To see a humorous example of the inability to multi-task that recently took the country by storm, click the video below.)



If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

                                                 РRussian Proverb



5 Tips to Restore Your Focus, Sanity and Quality of Work

  1. Turn Off Notifications (Email, Facebook, Twitter, Text) – Today’s technology and social media serve as distracters and fragment our focus and deepening of thought. ¬†Turning off the bells and whistles of our technology will prevent the Pavlovian response to them.
  2. Schedule your day – Setting aside designated time to do specific tasks increases your focus and commitment to the completion of that task.
  3. Just Say “No” – Not every new technology is a must have. ¬†Critically consider what it offers and ask yourself, “How does this new technology best serve me and do I really need it?”
  4. Designate Quiet Hours – Establish a time in your day where you actually turn off all electronic devices so that you may focus on an important task that requires your thought and creativity.
  5. Purge РReview your current technology, social media and email newsletters and ask yourself if they benefit you.  If not, consider purging it to create space for more important tasks.



(Photo credit: Margo Conner)

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