Are you doing other things while you read these words? Are you sipping coffee? Riding an exercise machine? Listening to music? Most people find it easy to multitask when the tasks require different brain processes. We sometimes get into trouble when we try to text a friend and talk on the phone at the same time—there’s a bottleneck in the language production area of our brain—and we ind ourselves sending the wrong message to the wrong party (embarrassing, at best).
A debate is currently raging in business journals about multitasking. Some decry that by multitasking, you are doing a poorer job at each of the tasks. Others argue that executives (and moms) literally cannot do their jobs if they were to focus on single tasks sequentially. I believe that the optimal path is to discern which tasks you do easily and to mash them up readily. Save your concentrated attention for important things that require single-minded focus.
How do we concentrate in a world of Twitter, email, and text distractions? It takes great discipline, but I encourage you to set aside dedicated time to aim your laser attention on your career, book, hobby, or project until the rest of the world fades from your awareness. Runners, skiers, and race car drivers know that in moments of peak concentration time disappears—your mind works at the speed of light, making connections and integrating information from all parts of your brain.
Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, describes this state of low as, “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time lies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Prof. Csíkszentmihályi believes that the “low” experience brings people an optimal level of happiness. Too little mental stimulation — we become bored and depressed. Too much — we become worrisome and anxious. Find an optimal level of engaging work that challenges you, pour passionate attention into it, and you have a recipe for a happy, fulfilling life.
About Tony Cecala
Tony is a business strategist. He publishes the Holistic Networker and produces the Wellness Expo. In his spare time he reads about technology and the mind.