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Dr Sophie Leroy, assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, US, has a different take on distraction. “When we think of multitasking, we think about choosing to do different activities at once, like driving and talking on the phone,” she says. “But another form of multitasking occurs when your brain can’t focus because it’s busy thinking about all the other things you have to do.”
This is particularly common at work. “Time is segmented, with people rushing from a project they’re working on, to a meeting, then back again,” Dr Leroy says. “They assume their brain just moves along with them. But if you’re working on an assignment until 2:59, then rush off to a meeting at 3:00, you’re going to have a hard time switching gears, not to mention resuming work on the original project when the meeting ends."
Imagine your brain is a computer, Leroy says: if too many windows are open at once, the whole operating system slows down. “So leave a trail of bread crumbs for your brain,” she suggests. Jot down where you’re at with a project before you transition to a new one. This way you know exactly where to pick up when you return to it. And before you jump back into it, devote a few minutes to recapping what you’ve just finished. It’s simple, but it works.
Feb 9, 2012