Day 1: Magical Day, I try to Focus on one thing at a time
Today’s Challenge: Go for a day without multi-tasking and Focus on one thing at a time. Today’s challenge aims for people to get rid of information overload by focusing on a single task. According to the Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin (featured on the podcast), when we are multi-tasking we are “depleting neural resources” because our brain does not do more than one thing at once.
An interesting thing mentioned in the podcast is what Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California-Irvine calls “Pattern of Self-Interruption”. This is when you abruptly stop something you are doing for no particular reason when nobody is disrupting you. I.e. You interrupt yourself.
Listen to the podcast here
I found today’s challenge quite difficult. On the surface, It is not a hard thing to do but I found it pretty hard because I am not used to doing only one thing at once. So being forced to do a single thing for a particular time was an interesting experiment. Self-interruption is a big one for me because I hardly have people distracting or asking me questions so a lot of my distractions or multi-tasking are self generated— except when I have notifications —
How the Day Went
My attempt at focusing on a single thing at a time was quite a success. I did not open more than one tab at a time or switch between Instagram and Facebook as I usually do. I kept my phone out of sight when I was studying, doing assignments, or even in class. And guess what? I was actually able to focus on whatever it was I was doing at the moment. I realized didn’t need two tabs open. I got more work done in less time because I was committed to focus. On the bus I did not use my phone, instead I looked around at people; in my classes, I did not bother to check the time.
Prior to this assignment, I did a Media-Use Diary where I tracked all the media I used every 30 minute for 5 days. I found that I was on social media way more than necessary and most of the time, It was a distraction or filler for some extra or free time I had. So today, In response to this challenge, I tried to be more deliberate with my use of social media and when I was using Social media, not to switch between two different mediums because of some notification or another. This also applied when I was doing other work: Block out notifications.
It was a pretty surprising discovery for me to make about myself: that I can be focused when I want to and I get more things when I am focused. I also think part of why I succeeded for the most part on day one is that I was committed to being focused. It was something I wanted to do. Usually I have a hard time staying focused and committed to things. I keep changing activities constantly and one has to wonder: How do I ever get things done? I hate procrastinating; I do things by doing them all at the same time. But In a world that is filled with constant distractions and as a person that is easily distracted, I need to practice focusing on a single task at a time so I can be more productive and less stressed.
I think the biggest thing I learned from this challenge is focus is possible at least for me. Our culture seems to celebrate/encourage multitasking but it does not lead to better results. Multitasking is necessary sometimes, but we should not lose the power of focus. I definitely ended today with a much clearer head and sense of achievement than previous days.