Our complex lives seem to demand multitasking to keep up.
But can we be trying to balance too many plates in the air, doing too much at once to really express our creative talents, or to effectively achieve?
Or just be as fully human as we could be?
In his article Reverse Psychology for Success, John Eliot, Ph.D. notes “At every level, too much emphasis is placed on grades, spreadsheets, standardized test scores, and production statistics – the visible, easily measurable aspects of performance.
“But people who consistently end up on top have more than that. They develop the ‘intangibles’ of success: confidence, concentration, healthy commitment, and a host of other talents that are on the inside.”
And Laurie A. Sheppard in her article Curse of the Creatives, writes:
“If you feel driven, yet overwhelmed by the many diverse life goals you’re having difficulty completing, you’ve likely caught the ‘curse of the creatives.’ Your drivenness is caused by your self-expectation that you should do it all.”
She notes that a Times magazine article, The Multitasking Generation, said “decades of research (not to mention common sense) indicate that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks.”
[The photo at top comes from a newer TIME article: Watch This Awesome Kid Play Saxophone While Juggling a Soccer Ball, by Megan McCluskey, Sept. 14, 2015.]
[Also see related news story: Multi-tasking adversely affects learning.]
In addition to the cognitive problems of being overextended, there may be more subtle aspects. Judith Orloff, MD [author of the book Positive Energy] “teaches people how to protect themselves from energy-sapping multitasking,” according to a news article.
Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. – Albert Einstein
Optimal arousal and performance
That quote and the diagram come from the site of Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD for her book Find Your Focus Zone.
She explains in the book that the inverted U “has been in the psychological literature for about a century. It illustrates the Yerkes-Dodson law: that performance (or attention) increases with arousal (or stimulation) but only up to a certain point. When arousal level gets too high, performance decreases.
“It’s a core teaching in sports psychology, and it is used by world-class athletes as a model to practice attention control… The center range – your focus zone – has also been called the optimal range of performance, the individual zone of optimal functioning (IZOF), and in sports, the zone.”
She cautions that finding our focus zone “isn’t always easy. Not only does it change from activity to activity, but it’s different from one person to the next. Personality, physiology, style of thinking, age, and experience are all factors. You may not be able to talk, e-mail, and instant-message at the same time, but your child probably can.
“And in your child’s classroom, while some students get distracted by papers rattling, chairs moving, and classmates whispering, others do not.
“Just as we each have a different face and different fingerprints, we each have a different brain chemistry. Your adrenaline thresholds are unique to you. The way in which you metabolize adrenaline determines your relationship with stimulation, and your own, personal focus zone.”
Your Focus Zone site: http://yourfocuszone.com
Books by Lucy Jo Palladino, PhD:
Related article: Pumping our teeming brain, by Douglas Eby