In the computer science field, multitasking describes the ability of an operating system to carry out several tasks virtually at the same time. For quite some time now, this idea has been applied to people, dividing them into good or bad multitaskers. What people experience as multitasking is probably influenced by the structure of the working memory, which enables one to do a limited amount of tasks at the same time.
However, it is only possible in routine tasks such as jogging, peeling potatoes, cooking, showering or cleaning, to let your thoughts wander. Working memory therefore supports people in their day-to-day planning because during routine activities, thoughts can drift away to current issues which can be considered without having to stop the physical task.
Finally, this brain memory ensures that you can read a text without forgetting the beginning of the sentence by the time you get to the end of the sentence. Of course, letting your thoughts drift ultimately reduces focus, leading to the well-known feeling that, at the end of a text, you realise you don’t even know what you just read.
Human attention is a limited resource and people are simply unable to cope with two high concentration activities simultaneously. In the end, you always have to jump back and forth between the tasks, causing “time holes” that inevitably diminish the quality of both activities.
The following quote is from the psychologist and former Google board executive Douglas Merrill:
I know, you think you’re good at multitasking. And to some degree, you are. You can walk and chew gum at the same time. Folding laundry while talking on the phone? Not a problem. A clown can ride a unicycle while juggling brightly colored balls. This form of multitasking works because these are rote tasks that don’t require much brainpower. Unfortunately, our brains just aren’t equipped for multitasking tasks that do require brainpower. Our short-term memories can only store between five and nine things at once. When you’re trying to accomplish two dissimilar tasks, each one requiring some level of consideration and attention, multitasking falls apart. Your brain just can’t take in and process two simultaneous, separate streams of information and encode them fully into short-term memory.
Forbes - Douglas Merril - Why Multitasking Doesn’t Work - retrieved on 27.03.2019
Let’s start with a moment free from all distractions to give free rein to your flow of writing.
You are sitting in the conservatory, the fragrance of hot tea drifts up to you, snow falls outside on the lawn and you look at your notebook in front of you. On the screen is a program covered in symbols and text. After a few sentences, you get caught up in changing your settings, trying to find a different background or just anything other than thinking about your plot.
It is an ongoing task to stay focused - it doesn’t just happen once at some point and you never have to refocus yourself again, it takes training and personal discipline. A good start would be an application that reduces your chance of being distracted in the first place; a program that puts all the focus on the most important thing in this moment, your text.
That’s why I’m working on a user interface that makes it possible to combine organizing and writing in a way that feels natural.
Of course, no program in the world can make you write a bestseller. See it more as a tool to shape your story, like the brush of a painter.
Feel free to share your ideas with me on social media!