Like you’d expect with a machine designed to “think,” the computer has many similarities to the human brain. In fact, I often marvel at how much our brains resemble the inner workings of a computer, even though the brain came first!
One thing a computer is definitely better at, however, is multi-tasking. One of our greatest technological advancements was the creation of a computer capable of doing more than one thing at a time.
Much as we try, our brains simply weren’t built to multi-task. Sure, we can walk and chew gum—at least on a good day. But when we have multiple “windows” open within the course of a typical workday (our calendars, our email, social media, news feeds, you name it), we don’t really deal with any of them simultaneously.
We simply swing from one to another, faster and faster and faster, until it FEELS like we’re multi-tasking…but in reality, we’re still just looking at one at a time. We’re simply tightening our attention spans and, ultimately, short-circuiting our abilities to focus, concentrate, and think productively.
Remember when you got your first smart phone or tablet? You had a great time trying out everything it could do, like watching videos, listening to music, taking photographs, shooting video, even (or especially!) playing Angry Birds. All you had to do was charge it every night.
But eventually, things began to get a little slower, and, worst-case scenario (I remember it well), it would freeze up and shut down altogether. When that happened to me, I called tech support—Genius Bars weren’t a thing yet—and they told me I might have too many apps open.
I never knew that could even happen! But it turned out to be true—having all those apps open was bogging down its “brain,” using up its memory, and sapping my device’s ability to perform. Once I shut down the apps I wasn’t using, especially the ones I downloaded and only used once, I was back in business.
The same thing happens to our brains. When we allow ourselves to get overloaded—and it’s easy to do when you’re sipping from a firehose of endless data, no matter how new and exciting it is—our brains slow down, and our performance suffers.
So when you feel lost with way too many of your own windows open—stop, take a breath, prioritize—and close your apps! Set things aside, turn things off, let your messages wait for a bit…and focus.
Take a lesson from your iPad—it’s not smarter than you are (at least not yet), but in this case, it’s not a bad role model.
Grow Big or Go Home!