“What’s happening when we’re actually doing two things at once? It’s simple. We’ve separated them. Our brain has channels, and as a result we’re able to process different kinds of data in different parts of our brain. This is why you can walk and talk at the same time. There is no channel interference. But here’s the catch: you’re not really focused on both activities. One is happening in the foreground and the other in the background. If you were trying to talk a passenger through landing a DC-10, you’d stop walking. Likewise, if you were walking across a gorge on a rope bridge, you’d likely stop talking.."
Keller continues, "You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once. Even my dog Max knows this. When I get caught up with a basketball game on TV, he gives me a good nudge. Apparently, background scratches can be pretty unsatisfying. Many think that because their body is functioning without their conscious direction, they’re multitasking. This is true, but not the way they mean it. A lot of our physical actions, like breathing, are being directed from a different part of our brain than where focus comes from. As a result, there’s no channel conflict. We’re right when we say something is “front and center” or “top of mind,” because that’s where focus occurs--in the prefrontal cortex. When you focus, it’s like shining a spotlight on what matters. You can actually give attention to two things, but that is what’s called “divided attention.” And make no mistake. Take on two things and your attention gets divided. Take on a third and something gets dropped.”
I love this… how often do we allow other people to pull us away from what we KNOW is most important? How often do we allow the buzz, the bing, the flash from our cell phone sitting on our desk DIVIDE our attention from what matters most?
Answer: more often than we think.
Shut down your phone or put it on silent — not vibrate — when you’re working.
Turn off the notifications from your email app when you’re working.
Put up a sign of some sort (more on this later) on your desk to prevent people from disrupting your focus.
And develop the right disciplines today, so you can turn them into habits tomorrow…