Thursday, April 25, 2013

Breaking the Habit of Multi-Tasking

I have been focused on cultivating new habits that benefit me. Over the course of the past week I have discovered a habit that it would benefit me to break: that of multi-tasking. It is slowing me down, breaking my focus and interrupting my ability to stay present. Who wants that? I don't. I didn't even realize how often I am doing it though. Start project A ... and an hour later realize I'm midway through three different things with absolutely nothing completed. Where did the time go?

This realization stems from watching a video on how how to succeed in taking a course. Any course. The points made are:
  1. Cultivate a growth mindset - When studying or learning anything there will eventually be setbacks, stumbling blocks, confusion or some form of speed bump. How you look at these influences how well you proceed. If you adopt a fixed mindset and assume you just are not good at the subject matter and cannot succeed, you won't. If you adopt a growth mindset and understand that your brain is not fixed, you can persevere and learn and grow new brain cells, get better at something ... then you will simply do better. 
  2. Knowledge is constructed not received - Knowledge is a process you build, from the ground up so to speak. Lay a foundation and then build upon it. Don't start on the 10th floor when learning. Learning is a process from the bottom up. When you look at it that way, it seems so simple and makes a lot of sense. I'm guilty of wanting to make progress and learn something immediately, myself, and this is a great reminder to take baby steps.
  3. Embrace the struggle - The professor shared a great quote from Einstein here: "It is not the result of scientific research that ennobles humans and enriches their nature, but the struggle to understand while performing creative and open-minded intellectual work." Acquiring new knowledge is not always easy, be it a new dance step or a new concept. Accept the challenge and enjoy it as you go. The alternative is to feel defeated. I prefer to feel empowered, don't you?
  4.  Practical Tips - No how-to video or list is complete without practical steps to apply.
    1. Take notes: The process of writing words down enables them to stick and get into our brains.
    2. Visualize: Create pictures in your mind. Personally I find this very challenging, though I am making progress here.
    3. Repeat: Watch video clips over again within 24 hours and your retention is increased by 40%. I should think this applies with reading as well. Not sure I always have time to do that but it definitely explains why I learn a line dance and don't have a clue what I am doing the next time I go out. More than 24 hours has always elapsed by then ...
    4. Test yourself: Rehearing is not as effective as testing because it does not engage the brain as much. In the past I have spent more time re-reading my highlighted material to study and going forward I will look for ways to take quizzes as an alternative.
    5. Do not multi-task: Here it is ... the habit to break. To achieve this, it is going to require putting my phone in another room, I am almost incapable of not looking at it when it vibrates or dings or pings or chirps or whatever. I can make a decision to not check email, it is not a challenge for me to stay off of Facebook. The phone is my downfall even as it is my personal assistant in so many ways. The Pomodoro Technique was suggested as a way to manage multi-tasking as well. Set a timer for 20 minutes, dedicate your focus to your topic, task, whatever for the 20 minutes. Then take a 5 minute break. Resume. I have been doing this and I do find it to be successful. As long as my phone is not in close proximity.
  5.  Festina Lente - Last thing was a quote, Latin, that translates to "Make haste slowly". That sounds a bit like a contradiction. The spirit of the phrase is not to get ahead of yourself (remember to build knowledge from the ground up...) and to practice what you are learning.
This taught me a lot and gave me some great food for thought. Now where is my phone? Just kidding!

-Nicola Byrne

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