How do you single-task in a multitask environment?
Whether we’re examining Hawking’s hypothesis regarding black holes, solving a math problem during an exam, cutting a diamond, or processing an email, any stimuli that’s not helping us with the primary task, will degrade our ability to complete the task to our best. For these tasks, we need to activate and maintain convergent focus.
When our best is essential, we need to defend that convergent focus against distraction.
We may be in intense concentration. Someone arrives and beckons us to go to the window; we throw our neuromuscular system into a complex engagement. She points and whispers, “Look. A hawk,” our Observer activates as we search for an image we associate with the word. We hear a commotion outside, two people are arguing whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable. We may rouse our auditory processing system in order to make sense of the disagreement. Our companion hands us a note, “Meet me in the Ancient Greek section in 15 minutes.” To decode, our eyes recognize the pattern of the letters, integrate the letters into sounds, the sounds into meaningful patterns, the patterns into understanding. The message itself will send us back to activating another complex neuromuscular engagement.
Unexamined emails accumulate.
To stay focused on one thing long enough to complete it, create a defendable space.
Have one thing in front of you: clear your workspace; close screens.
Put on headphones or ear plugs
Enter full screen mode
Put up a “Busy, Back at . . . sign”
If you’re an active mover, prepare first by running up and down some stairs, taking a walk around the block, or trying out the seven-minute workout: