Stay in the Shower Longer

Its often been claimed that the best ideas come to us in the shower, on vacation, or on the golf course.   In an article by Susan Reynolds, she lays out concrete reasons why freeing your mind from the myriad of day-to-day tasks can unleash your creativity.   It seems that our brains are programmed to work on one task at a time and to do it well.  When we add more tasks, i.e., multi-task, we split our mind’s attention into too many directions and end up performing each task poorly.  She gives the example of driving and talking on a cellphone:

So, when you’re talking on the phone while driving, you may think you’re paying attention to both, but you’re not. Your brain may be attending to the driving, but then when the person you’re talking to says something that needs an answer, your brain switches its attention back to the conversation and ignores the driving completely. Additionally, there’s a lag time as the brain switches between each task.

The same case can be made for other business situations such as meetings and brainstorming, where multi-tasking (tell me you don’t read your email at meetings) swings your mind from its creative state to its get-it-done-quickly state.

So, stay in the shower a little longer and engage your creativity.

2 thoughts on “Stay in the Shower Longer

  1. Darcy

    Actually, it’s probably true that the brain can only handle about one task at a time in the foreground.

    But there are two subtleties that are left out from this model.

    1) Background processing. I often try to solve more than one problem at at time. I start working on problem A, then B, then C and so forth. Once I’ve got a few, then while working on either one, any of them can get resolved. For instance while working on problem C, the answer to A may pop into my mind. That’s because the process is running in background.

    Also when working on task C, there could be something about it that is similar (or opposite to A). There could be something about C that helps us solve A. I often will call this cross pollination (I call a few things that:)).

    2) Interrupts. I can be running two tasks at once but one task interrupts the other.

    For example when talking while driving, the driving task can interrupt the conversation and the conversation can interrupt the driving. So the task switching can be done in a way that both are quality activities. Driving needs your eyes and the conversation needs your ears. These two channels don’t interfere. Vision is a higher priority input for example if both interrupts come in, a call to maneuver and a call to listen, the call to maneuver will take priority. So in fact the two tasks can get done.

    I’m assuming you’re using a proper speaker phone.

    Other great ways of multi tasking:

    Read while in the washroom. Pee in the shower. :) Exercise in front of TV or music or reading.

    Some things will work better than others.

  2. Darcy

    Also, there is another distinction.

    Micro multi tasking vs. macro multitasking.

    I’m advocating the macro level.

    Working on projects at the same time.

    But nit micro stuff like cutting vegetables while riding your bicycle.

    At a micro level we do task switching and serialize. But at a macro level we accomplish multitasking.

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