multitasking

Exercise for Your Brain

Exercise for Your Brain

"Meditation suffers from a towering PR problem, largely because its most prominent proponents talk as if they have a perpetual pan flute accompaniment. If you can get past the cultural baggage, though, what you'll find is that meditation is simply exercise for your brain. It's a proven technique for preventing the voice in your head from leading you around by the nose. To be clear, it's not a miracle cure. It won't make you taller or better-looking, nor will it magically solve all of your problems. You should disregard the fancy books and the famous gurus promising immediate enlightenment. In my experience, meditation makes you 10% happier. That's an absurdly unscientific estimate, of course. But still, not a bad return on investment."

~ Dan Harris

Many Things at Once

Excerpt from "Kerry James Evans: From Combat Engineer to Poet," by Dana JenningsThe New York Times: ArtBeat, October 22, 2013: 

Like a combat engineer, a poet is aware of many things at once: narrative, musicality, line length, image, rhythm, syntax, etc. A poet is always looking for a balance of literary elements to keep the poem alive. For example, three long sentences in a row will leave the reader out of breath. Too many polysyllabic words can cause a reader to trip over his or her tongue. However, when a poet finds the right balance with concern to formal technique, the poem’s meaning has a better chance of being understood.

More...


Barred

by Kerry James Evans, from Five Poems (Narrative Magazine)

 Gary, Indiana

I belly-crawled through rubble
and ash. Sidewalks
shattered against the curb,
and the asphalt
wintered itself like madness
leaving a wolf after the kill,
after the throat bleeds
out onto the ground.

I licked bullets from brick walls,
abandoned the car
at a steel mill. I dropped
from the sky like mortar fire,
like the youth
of this town—sponged
from a five-gallon bucket
and the liquor stores still open.


Kerry James Evans reads his poetry at the Florida State University Warehouse Reading Series.

Evans, K. J. (2013). Bangalore. [Copper Canyon Press, library]

Everything and Nothing

Everything and Nothing

"While our minds might be made to wander, they are not made to switch activities at anything approaching the speed of modern demands. We were supposed to remain ever ready to engage, but not to engage with multiple things at once, or even in rapid succession."

~ Maria Konnikova

The Value of Concentration

The Value of Concentration

Meditation and mindfulness: the words conjure images of yoga retreats and Buddhist monks. But perhaps they should evoke a very different picture: a man in a deerstalker, puffing away at a curved pipe, Mr. Sherlock Holmes himself. The world’s greatest fictional detective is someone who knows the value of concentration, of “throwing his brain out of action,” as Dr. Watson puts it. He is the quintessential unitasker in a multitasking world.

Constantly Whistling

From “Andrew Bird Discovers His Inner Operatic Folkie,” by Jonathan Mahler, New York Times Sunday Magazine (1.02.09):

Compositionally, Bird takes simple melodies and gradually extends them into complex arrangements. These melodies pop into his head unannounced. The way it usually works, he will suddenly find himself whistling a new one — Bird is constantly whistling — or even chewing his food to it. He never records melodies or even writes them down. He assumes that if they’re worth remembering, he’ll remember them. The longer they remain lodged in his head, the more likely it is that they will eventually be fashioned into a song. “It’s like I’m my own Top 40 radio station, playing the things that get under my skin,” Bird says. “The ones that really stick are the hits.”

Andrew Bird performing 'Oh No' in Cincinnati, April 5, 2008.

 

His new CD, Noble Beast, drops Tuesday. Listen to Useless Creatures, the collection of new instrumental works that is included with the deluxe edition.

 

From One Thing to the Next

"People can't multitask very well, and when people say they can, they're deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself. What we can do is shift our focus from one thing to the next with astonishing speed. Switching from task to task, you think you're actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you're actually not. You're not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly. [There are several reasons the brain has to switch among tasks. One is that similar tasks compete to use the same part of the brain.] Think about writing an e-mail and talking on the phone at the same time. Those things are nearly impossible to do at the same time. You cannot focus on one while doing the other. That's because of what's called interference between the two tasks. They both involve communicating via speech or the written word, and so there's a lot of conflict between the two of them."

~ Earl Miller, a Picower Institute Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, quoted in “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again,” by Jon Hamilton, Morning Edition (10.2.08)

 

It's the dose that makes the poison

From "Too Much Information? Ignore It" (Alex Williams, New York Times, 11-11-07):

After reading Mr. [Timothy] Ferriss’s recent best seller, The 4-Hour Workweek, Jason Hoffman, a founder of Joyent, which designs Web-based software for small businesses, urged his employees to cut out the instant-messaging and swear off multitasking. From now on, he told them, severely restrict e-mail use and conduct business the old-fashioned way, by telephone.

“All of a sudden,” Mr. Hoffman said of the results, “their evenings are free. All of a sudden Monday doesn’t feel so overwhelming.”
...
“BlackBerrys and e-mail aren’t inherently bad,” [Ferriss] said. “It’s just like medicine: it’s the dose that makes the poison.”