Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, says, “Every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003.” Are we able to process this information? Maybe not. Now, consider this:
- Research by the University of London shows that our IQ drops by 5 to 15 points, when we multitask. It also affects our brain’s ability to filter out irrelevant information.
- In his book, Your Brain at Work, David Rock explains that performance can decrease by up to 50% when a person focuses on two mental tasks at once.
Scary as it sounds, we’ve built a lifestyle around the habits of multitasking and accessing/ dispersing information via technology. The more we do this, the more there is a need to manage it. But how?
Solitude. According to author Ray Kethledge, solitude is “a state of mind, a space in which to focus one’s own thoughts without distraction — and where the mind can work through a problem on its own.” And the benefits of this are many: increased productivity, better creativity, and a spike in positive emotions.
Here’s how you can pencil some solitude into your schedule:
- Change how you rejuvenate. These are the periodic respites from concentration that we take through the day. It is a time-out for our brains and our bodies. What would help you feel refreshed? Probably not scrolling down social media pages for 20 mins. Instead, have a conversation with someone. Listen to music. Or even try this 1- minute meditation by Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace.
- Seek privacy. Our distractions come in two forms – internal (inner dialogue, wandering mind, emotions,) and external (social media, people, sounds). Control the latter. Avoid interruptions, and choose to make yourself anonymous. Take calls alone. Use headphones when focusing on your work. Or right before getting home, take three deep breaths. Long showers help too.
- Don’t make knee-jerk decisions. Given our limited energy and resources, we cannot be ‘yes’ people all the time. In fact, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferris practices a strong ‘no’ for decisions he is pressured for. Step away from demands and high-pressure zones to reflect on where your time is best spent. Which meetings you should stop attending; which invitations could you decline. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, has been advising people to do this for long.
And with all this, if you feel overwhelmed, remember Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn’s advice in Star Wars – “your focus determines your reality.”