Sunday, 11 September 2011

Focus is Key

Recent psychology journal articles have posited the theory that multitasking not only dissipates the attention that the person multitasking is able to give to any single activity in the moment, but also that constant multitasking may make a person so accustomed to working and thinking without a strong focus on any one task, that he loses the habit at least, if not the ability, to focus strongly on any one thing at a time, and that the mental functioning of that person is generally degraded as a result. In this regard, Russell Poldrock , PhD, U of Calif, in L.A., writing in the Proceedings of the national Academy of Science, Vol 103, No 31, writes that declarative memory, related to higher reasoning ability, is used when people focus on a single task, while the hippocampus, which has more to do with rote memory, is used when people multitask. Also see, Jeffrey Baumgartner, Don’t Multi-task; Multi-think! 31-8-2006, and, by a team of researchers for the American Psychology Association, Executive control of Cognitive Process in Task Switching .

In other words, intensity and focus may not only be necessary to optimize human functioning on specific difficult and rigorous tasks; the habit of clear focused thinking may be necessary to keep one’s mind in its best possible condition.

What this may mean for employers is that if you can relieve your employees of menial, low level tasks, and especially those tasks which interrupt more difficult or significant tasks, then not only will your company benefit in the short run by automating tasks for which you would otherwise have had to expend staff time, you may also reap a significant benefit in more focused, sharper and more aware employees in the longer term.

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