One of the most interesting things I learned in co-authoring the Harvard Health book Organize Your Mind, Organize your Life with Harvard psychiatrist Paul Hammerness is that the brain is designed to beautifully handle one focus, one task at a time. It is not designed for multiple, parallel tasks.
When you shine your full attention on a conversation, a meeting, a project, or on driving your car, you access the full spectrum of your brain’s resources. Top, down, right, left, back, front, all together the brain has an immense capacity to be creative, productive, and organized, avoid errors, and connect deeply with others who matter to us.
In today’s world, such a singular focus is a rare — or at least occasional — event. We rapidly move our focus from one task to another, from a meeting to an email to a text to a side conversation. The brain can’t easily move the totality of its resources all together in an instant, and repeatedly. Hence many tasks get only a part of our brain’s resources, often leaving us feeling as though much has not been done well at the end of a day.
This state of disorganization is an epidemic of distracted and divided focus.
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