Tag Archives: brain

Sculpting Project 9: Mono-tasking: Week 2

Sculpting Project 9: Mono-tasking: Week 2

The Drama: Five Minutes of Attempted Mono-tasking

1: I am attempting to mono-task, focusing on one thing: typing this page about multitasking.
2. My back is sore, (thought) ‘when an I going to take some time for stretching?’
3: Thought, ‘the goats are hungry for lunch I should feed them.’
4: Pieces of a phone conversation in another part of the house come to my ears.
5. My husband asks a question related to the phone conversation.
6: The sun is shining in on me and (thought) ‘I have a priority of taking a walk today.’
7: Thought,’I will have a friend coming soon, maybe I should go now. ‘
8: The phone rings and the friend is calling to come.
9: Thought, ‘Oops, the bread is all risen. I need to go punch it down and get it in the oven.’ (At this point I leave the computer to take care of the bread and goats and get ready for the friend who is on the way, still wondering how I will get a walk in and finish this page before I attend a gathering this evening.)


So what just happened to me: I was beginning to mono-task. Then I experienced interruptions. Some interruptions were internal; thoughts about feeding the goats or baking the bread. Other interruptions were external; the phone call, a question to answer. Some interruptions were prompted by an external stimulus the shining sun reminded me of my goal to walk.

Mono-tasking can be a serious challenge for me. Multitasking takes the challenge one step more. When I choose to multitask I am choosing interruptions.

Q: What can store one billion bits of information in its life span, take 1/10 of a second to figure out complex incoming data and has 100 billion neurons?
A: Your brain.

Q: What has limitations on speed, can only hold on to about 4 things in a working memory, and can only pay attention to one thing at a time?
A: Your brain.

The myth of multitasking

Our brains are not built with multitasking capacity.

We may think we can pay attention to two things at a time but actually we cannot.

Our brains are continually taking in lots of information. The frontal lobe, where we pay attention, has a doorkeeper that only allows in one thing at a time. Attempts to multitask require our brains to switch attention. The doorkeeper becomes a revolving door operator. With each switch/revolution of the door we pay the cost of time. And as we age the ability to switch attention becomes slower.

So the first cost of multitasking is time. The more we do at once the longer it takes.

The second cost of multitasking is quality.

When we do one thing at a time we can do A grade work.

When we add a second activity our quality grade drops to B. Add a third and we are doing C work.

Some psychological research paints an even grimmer picture, saying that: 1. the more you multitask the worse you become at it; and 2. multitaskers are losing the ability to pay attention deeply to anything.

Activities that are very automated (walking and chewing gum) require less attention and can be multitasked to a certain degree. But even automated activities interfere with each other in our brains.

When to Multitask:

When a task is automatic and boring multitasking brings a novelty that can make the time more enjoyable. Listening to music while we work can be a mood booster. Some situations require multitasking such as caring for small children while cooking dinner.

When Not to Multitask:

When you want to do a task well, beautifully.
When you have a limited time to work.
When you want to let your mind think deeply and be fully present.

Sculpting Project 9: Mono-task

Select one task each day to mono-task in the company of the Holy Spirit.