Multitasking. The word is applied in many different contexts: How Windows does or does not multitask; How drivers multitask by talking on the phone or changing the radio station; How a person talks on the phone while doodling on a piece of paper. Perhaps it’s the word task that throws us off but we don’t commonly think about some basic multitasking done every day, at a more micro level. For example, holding a conversation.
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For those of you who know me, you know that I think Gauss is cool :: Gauss was so tremendously smart that he accomplished 10 times more than the average genius and I think I’ve started to understand how. Just imagine Gauss’s day: every morning he would wake up, and have nothing to do but work on his latest theories … 8-10 hours of uninterrupted time to think. Imagine that.
Nowadays its just the opposite: its hard to get 8-10 *minutes* of uninterrupted time, and this is mainly due to the interruptive communication technologies that saturate every minute of our waking lives. Its been shown that once someone has been interrupted from concentration it takes ~4 to 15 minutes to regain that initial level of concentration. Now if the mean time between interruptive events is on the order of 10 minutes, its not hard to see that the total amount of time that can be spent in deep concentration is exceedingly low (nearly zero, actually — depending on the distribution around the mean).