Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

The Balance between Focus and Multi-tasking

Out of Focus by Billy Alexander

Out of Focus by Billy Alexander

I commented yesterday on the challenging tension between multi-tasking and focus on GTD Times. I referenced how I use Mark Forster’s Do It Tomorrow methodology (see blogroll) to enable as much focus as possible during day to day working.

What’s been nagging at me has been catalysed by my reading of Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain Tortoise Mind.  

In the book Guy argues that our ‘intelligent unconscious’ is a sophisticated nervous system that gets to know the world by the idiosyncrasies of our own experience: ‘a brain is plastic: it transmutes ignorance into competence….. categories and concepts are distilled from particular encounters so that, by a process of spontaneous analogy, ‘what I do next’ can be informed by records of ‘what happened before”.

It ‘registers its patterns and develops and coordinates skillful responses’

And so it is this last comment that makes me challenge my own devaluation of reactive multi-tasking (type 2. activity in the multi-tasking and focus post on GTD Times) vs. the power of focus. Maybe we are developing into a new breed of multi-tasking/ multi-information source managing ‘hyper-executives’ who have to rapidly shift focus and work type to keep with the pace and the requirements of modern business. As David Allen says ‘It’s all the work’

Ironically guilty of conscious/intellectualised labelling and categorisation, I need to recognise the necessary balance between all types of work.

Or do I? I’m left with an image of two breeds evolving. The thoughtful/ contemplative strategic CEO and the ‘hyper-executive’ Chief Operating Officer (COO) who just gets things done….?

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4 thoughts on “The Balance between Focus and Multi-tasking

  1. Si,

    This is a truly thought provoking post. You’ve raised some very interesting questions – particularly in regards to cognitive plasticity. Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks because the “old dog” is constantly being reinvented as a new, different dog with different tricks?

    Even more curious from my perspective is the possibility that our environment is forcing us to evolve cognitively at a rate far faster than the lucky mutations of evolution. How, do you suppose, this will manifest itself in say five more generations?

    Have you by any chance read “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil? From what he says, the plasticity of the computer and the creativity of the human mind will meld into a more creative multi-parallel processor in the future.

    Would that be GTD³?

    I’m not sure humans were meant to be that productive but then I suppose that technically such a being is a trans-human anyway, right?

    Jack me in to the brave new world…

    Oliver Starr, Editor

    PS: thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: Balance between Focus and Multi-tasking II « Just Seven Things

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