As I sit here at my desk, bouncing up and down on my new exercise ball desk chair, talking with a friend in IM, reading email, reading online articles, and commenting on Twitter, I run across this article in the New York Times about how the brain is incapable of concentrating on more than one thing at once: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/science/05tier.html?th&emc=th
So I start to wonder just how different people like me are.
Last night, my husband was borrowing my Rebounder (an enhanced exercise trampoline) and watching TV. I came up to ask him a question, and he stopped bouncing. I said he didn’t have to, and he said if he didn’t stop, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate on what I was saying.
A friend on Twitter mentioned how his wife has learned she has to make him stop everything if she wants to be heard.
And then there’s me.
Why am I doing all the above instead of working on my next short story like I wanted to? I have it open.
The answer, I’ve learned, is that I forgot to turn on my music. My brain needs at least two complex things to concentrate on at once or else it scatters and doesn’t focus on anything.
I can keep track of dinnertime conversation better if I’m also doing a word search. If I just try to listen, at some point my attention will drift and I won’t realize it until too late.
But when I play music, my mind hooks into that, and my focus improves significantly. Now I did grow up with music around me at all times, and I had my own tape recorder on which I played radio programs and audio books until I could recite the whole thing…special voices included…but there have been times when silence won the day and hyper-focused me.
Now I keep reading down to find that they have considered people with attention-deficit problems. They are beaming pulses of light directing into the brain to calm and focus them.
What’s odd to me is that the article is about avoiding distractions and the negative aspects of distraction. But isn’t this therapy a contradiction? I’d think light pulses into the brain would be the quintessential distraction. I see that as equivalent to my need for music, and start to wonder if I should keep a colored strobe light on my desk?
I also wonder how they would work on people like my husband and friend who can only focus on one thing at a time. Sure, they’d be focused, but exploring a flashing laser beam isn’t exactly the definition of success in relaxation or work ;).
I remember this time when I wrenched my neck so severely that I had to be driven to the mass transit because I couldn’t turn my head to check for traffic. They put me on two Vicodin and told me it would knock me out.
So I went to work. (I am a card-carrying workaholic after all.)
Those two days were the worst ever. I felt like I was slogging through molasses, like someone had replaced the air with thick honey that clung to me and impeded my every thought.
For all of that, I was productive in a limited way. I could only work on one thing at a time. It felt so ridiculously slow, and I wasn’t prepping for the next in the back of my mind either.
My co-workers’ reaction?
Relief :p. Apparently they found me easier to track/handle when I was drugged out of my gourd.
So…multitasker or singletasker? And do you have to distract yourself to concentrate, or plug in earplugs and block out the world?