Have you ever thought back about something you were supposed to do but realized you never did it?
Or worse, you did it wrong and now it’s too late to change things?
This can happen when your life is so busy, you can barely think straight. Sometimes, we’re just too busy to think everything, so we miss some of the details.
So what do we do? We multitask. We think it’s the only way to get things done.
Multitasking comes at a price for most of us however… You can only donate so much time and energy on each project, causing you to miss some possible important details.
I’ve come to realize that there really is no such thing as multitasking.
Listen to two different audio books, one in each ear, and tell me the details of both after a few minutes.
Unless you’re a savant, you probably aren’t able to do this.
Multitasking works the same way. While you’re focused on one thing, you can’t focus on the other. Unless… you are doing something “mindless”, which is really a nice way of saying that you know a task so well that you don’t even have to think about it while doing it.
- I can wash dishes while listening to an audio book.
- I can drive a car while talking to the passengers.
- I can watch a movie while walking on a treadmill.
Multitasking can work, but one of your other tasks must be a little mindless in order to do it effectively.
Even then it can be a challenge to absorb all the material of each task. Of course, it depends on how you learn.
My girlfriend’s son learns Spanish by listening to lessons (online) and playing video games at the same time.
Most parents would not allow this. They would tell their kid to go to their room and get their homework done.
But for him, playing games and doing homework – works! He finds that by occupying his mind with something fun, it allows him to absorb the material better.
Wait, has this been researched?
Probably. But without even searching for the science to back this up, I can attest to this very concept in my own life.
About 10 years ago, I read a book called Therapeutic Metaphors by David Gordon. It’s a book for coaches and therapists to help them facilitate change in their clients by telling them stories.
I thought, “Hey, I can tell stories! That might be something I want to learn more about.”
Well, the book is supposed to be one of the best books on the subject, but I simply couldn’t get into it. At about the halfway mark, I put it down and never opened it again.
It took me 10 years to figure out why I couldn’t get into this book. Seriously, I just realized this last week.
The challenge for me at the time was identifying with the example stories he used in the book. He talked about Lancelot and Guinevere and knights and castles and all kinds of things that I had absolutely no interest in.
You could have locked me in a room with that book for days and nothing else, and I would have emerged from the room hungry, jaded, and never having opened the book even though I had nothing else to do.
My colleagues all agree it’s one of the best books on the subject. So I thought there must be something wrong with me because I just wasn’t getting into it.
But, it turns out I just can’t connect with some fantasy stories. They simply don’t work for me. And when I start to read or watch something that I have little to no interest in, I tune out.
Have you ever started to read or watch something and found that in order to keep going, you had to force yourself to continue?
That’s what happened to me throughout high school. Homework, and much of school work in general, was a dismal chore for me because I really believed I was supposed to concentrate on my work and nothing else. It was drilled into me to focus on nothing but my school work.
And I did not perform well at all.
I can’t concentrate on something I’m not interested in. And I can’t learn something that bores me to tears. Like my girlfriend’s son… he can’t learn Spanish easily. He has a lot of trouble with it.
But add video games? Suddenly he’s 10 points higher on all his tests.
What’s going on?
If the book I tried to read had a story of someone climbing a mountain facing lots of danger along the way, I might have thoroughly enjoyed it. And I would likely have learned the material.
I came to understand that learning is easier when you are enjoying yourself.
I also learned that sometimes learning is easier when are using more of your senses. For instance, those with ADD might find it easier to walk with a book, than to sit with it. Those who relax to music might be able to learn new material while playing music on the radio or their MP3 player.
Maybe you learn better when you’re away from the house and in a library or coffee shop?
You are incredibly gifted. You have a brain that is fully capable of learning new things. Some of us can learn faster, but we can all learn the same things. It’s just a matter of creating the right environment in which to learn. And, of course, having an interest in the subject matter!
The internet has created a multitasking world, but what it’s revealing is that some tasks can work well together and some can’t, at least as far as our learning is concerned. In other words, sometimes in order to learn something new you have to be in the right state of mind to do it.
If I had to study tax law, I would want a story interwoven with the material. Or if I couldn’t have that, I would want to create a space that feels good so that every time I had to study it, I’d feel positive entering that “sacred” room I set up just for that.
The room would smell good, have pleasing music, and be the perfect temperature.
Otherwise, studying tax law might be a complete sleep inducer for me.
But maybe I could sit in a coffee house or anywhere that I felt good. Maybe then I could learn about tax law!
What’s your perfect learning environment? I think when you figure it out, life will just be that much more forgiving.
I know when I’m creating a new episode of my show, or writing a new blog article, I need complete silence because I feel like I use my entire brain.
But sometimes I can turn on my favorite music while drinking my favorite beverage, and the time just flies by. And before you know it, I’m done with the task.
Figure out your perfect learning environment. Think about what the easiest way for you to learn was in your life, and try to duplicate the circumstances.
Sometimes a day at a coffee shop might be what you need. And sometimes 10 minutes in the bathroom can do the very same thing!
Hmm, now that I think about it, I think I’d pass on learning tax law no matter what the circumstances.