Here’s an example: You can type an email and almost simultaneously think about what you will make for dinner tonight. This ability
to mentally roam to the future is our default. When it is recognized
and nurtured, it’s responsible for creating the next best-selling book or
incredible speech, or inventing the rocket that goes to Jupiter.
Your brain may be mentally wandering right now—Squirrel!—as it
has epiphanies while reading this article. When you allow it, you are
an insight-generating machine that can prospect on a topic and imagine
AND FOCUS AT THE SAME TIME
Interestingly, the much-heralded attribute of focus is at neural odds with
generating new insights and is di;cult for humans, yet both are critical to accomplishing new things. A research study by social networking
company Draugiem Group shows that we can stay optimally absorbed
for 52 minutes—a sort of mental sprint—that is followed by a 17-minute
diversion. The “distraction” may include mental wandering while sitting
quietly or taking a walk; or allowing the brain to be used di;erently; for
example, laughing with a friend, doodling, or playing a game. The key is
to walk away after the energy-intensive sprint, and allow your brain to
do something else before the next sprint. If you do this, you’ll gain more
overall stamina, deeper thinking capability, and greater output.
You might be thinking, “I want to focus on being creative.” What you
really want to do is allot time to mentally wander (the creative part) and
to make it productive. To do so, make a point to record your tangential
thoughts. Then, use your focused, mindful network (called the executive or orienting network) to keep you present and absorbed for the
mental sprint of doing the analytical and structural work.
This process is a perfect circle that begins with the ideas born from
mental wandering, and ends with getting things done through focused
e;ort. We need both. Embrace the permission to mentally wander while
balancing the demands that you place on your executive network. You
will soon see improvement in your productivity and your energy.
Do you feel more productive when
you double up your tasks? You’re
¢ Multitasking decreases IQ by a
minimum of 10 points.
¢ Multitasking is associated with
decline in gray matter.
¢ Multitaskers cannot distinguish
irrelevant stimuli, so they pay
attention to everything.
¢ Multitaskers teach themselves
to be good at multitasking, but not
good at focus.
¢ Multitaskers activate large pieces
of neuro-architecture not relevant
to the task and thus exhaust their
capability to focus.
¢ Multitaskers cannot manage
working memory well. This is the
ability to recall recent bits of relevant data that will help in task
completion. This is also why many
small random tasks fall through
the cracks—remembering to pick
up milk on the way home from
work or that we agreed to forward
information to a client by the end
of the day.