Concentration: why multi tasking can be one thing too much.

We’re filming this week for the RNLI, which means lots of people running around doing lots of things, in the middle of which, i’m trying to write. It’s hard to concentrate when so many things are making demands on your time and distracting you.

Dedicating time to one thing can be a challenge, especially when many activities, devices and technologies are designed specifically to leverage themselves into your schedule with a friendly beep, poke or nudge. Concentration is a difficult thing: increasingly a luxury, but essential to create the space for reflection and, ultimately, productivity.

Up to a point, multi tasking is great, that point being where we become over committed and just end up following process, losing the space for creativity, exploration and learning. Like most of us, i find that my concentration span reflects my level of interest in what i’m doing. If i’m really passionate about something, i can block out anything to focus on it, but if i’m only vaguely interested or, worse, it’s tedious, then i’ll be distracted by anything from a passing plane to my stomach rumbling.

Whilst writing so much over the last year, i’ve learnt that concentration is not a matter of locking myself into a quiet room, indeed, i find i’m at my most productive in busy public spaces, like on trains or cafes, but at my least productive in the office. When i know the people around me, it’s much harder to block out the distractions. Strange that the one place that’s supposed to be where you work is the least productive environment.

If you’ve made it this far, then your powers of concentration are clearly superb, but think about when else in your day you manage to focus on one thing for this long. Think about the amount of time that we passively invest in watching television or a film, compared to the time we actively invest in learning.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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1 Response to Concentration: why multi tasking can be one thing too much.

  1. I think we think in chunks anyway.

    Have a little thought – let it sink in.

    Come back to it add a little more.

    All the while the thoughts drift down to the bottom of your understanding but your viewpoint is nudged along a little

    I’m always a little suspicious when people simply go off and do a task straight away. Are you sure that’s your best effort and you weren’t just trying to put a tick on your to do list?

    The trouble is of course when ” I need to have a good think about this” turns to prevarication or half completed tasks or even forgetting to do something totally.
    The other annoyance is blinding moments of epiphany and enlightenment when I am doing something else (for me often in the small hours whilst I wrestle insomnia) about which I cannot remember the detail later

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