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Saving Yourself from Scatter Brained Syndrome

Devora Zack Posted by Devora Zack.

Devora Zack is author of three books and president of Only Connect Consulting, Inc.

Saving Yourself from Scatter Brained Syndrome

Devora's book Singletasking, is on sale for 50% September 14th-21st, along with many similar productivity books-- check out the collection here. 

An interview with Devora Zack

1. Can you please explain to our readers why you wrote this book? What passion drove you to write this for your readers?

As president of the leadership firm Only Connect Consulting, Inc. (OCC) for twenty years, I’ve consulted to thousands of people in dozens of industries. Along the way I’ve witnessed an alarming and pervasive trend…people are living increasingly distracted lives. Our failure to be present is what I call ‘scattered brain syndrome’ and is the cause of everything from professional bungling to fatalities. Not to mention that attempting to multitask makes us 40% less productive than what I call Singletasking – immersing ourselves in one task at a time.

I did research and was floored to learn how thoroughly science supports singletasking and lambasts multitasking. Multitasking is a myth – the brain is incapable of doing more than one thing at a time. What we colloquially call multitasking is actually task-switching – rapidly switching back and forth between tasks. It is super inefficient…and shrinks the gray matter in the brain.

I knew there was a better way; Singletasking promotes an alternative. We can enjoy our days while – mysteriously! - getting more accomplished.

My passion is helping people improve their days and their relationships, the driving force behind all three of my books. And I’ve already heard from readers that Singletasking has altered the quality of their lives.

2. How is multitasking affecting our young people? What are the dangers you see facing young people?

I am frequently asked whether young people have an edge when it comes to multitasking. Does growing up in a high tech world make one better equipped to do several things at once? It does not.

Younger people have a wildly inflated idea of how many things they can attend to at once. Neuroscientist Douglas Merrrill explains, “Everyone knows kids are better at multitasking. The problem? Everyone is wrong.”

College and high school students have the same attention and memory limitations as adults. Regardless of age, people recall less when task shifting. Poorly acquired information results in a weak ability to transfer and apply concepts. Learning to concentrate is a life skill.

Here’s what I ask people – young or old – who think multitasking is the holy grail: How’s it working for you so far? Is living a frantic, distracted life and giving everything and everyone partial attention making you more productive, successful, fulfilled, and happy?

I didn’t think so.

Many young folks in college view multitasking as a path to success. Quite the opposite. A University of London study recently discovered multitasking lowers IQ.

Plus, a Harvard study revealed messaging and being online while learning negatively impacts e grades because divided attention leads to a decreased capacity for cognitive processing.

3. What do you say to people who tell you that there is no way for them to get around multi-tasking…especially working moms?

I understand juggling endless demands. Yet we are bamboozled by the belief that down time is a luxury, and the only way to survive is to be frantic dawn to dusk.

Multitasking means nothing receives your complete attention. Attempting to be everything to everyone means you are never fully present for anybody.
Haphazard errors are made and you become ineffective both at work and at home.

Denying yourself time to breathe in the present moment means missing out on the best life has to offer. As Georgia O’Keeffe said, “Nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time -- like to have a friend takes time.”

As a bonus, studies prove spending fifteen minutes a day relaxing and reflecting increases performance by 23% each month.

Multitasking rather than focusing on the person in front of you is disrespectful. Diffusing attention among tasks is ineffective. You can do one thing well or two things poorly.

The bottom line? The real way to effectively handle numerous demands is by focusing on one thing at a time.