A person using a computer experiences “cognitive drift” if more than one second elapses between clicking the mouse and seeing new data on the screen. If ten seconds pass, the person’s mind is somewhere else entirely. That’s how medical errors are made.
Levitt and Dubner, Superfreakonomics
The books say that women are better at multitasking than men. Maybe so. But I’ve got a theory that all of us have trouble multi-tasking. In fact, I would argue that focus is lost by most attempts to do multi-tasking. Some call the problem Adult ADD, but I think I would call our era the era of focus deficiency syndrome.
The quote above from Superfreakonomics jumped off the page at me. The quote comes from a section of the book discussing medical errors. But it’s the first part that grabs me:
A person using a computer experiences “cognitive drift” if more than one second elapses between clicking the mouse and seeing new data on the screen. If ten seconds pass, the person’s mind is somewhere else entirely.
This rings true – to me. I had not heard of “cognitive drift,” but the phrase certainly describes me — a lot; frequently; maybe constantly. My mind is constantly drifting. I will look something up/do a google search, and as I am waiting for it to load (and, yes, I do have a fast-speed connection) my mind has already gone elsewhere, and it may or may not make it back to where it was just a few seconds earlier.
For my own life, I have found that to read a book effectively – you know, with focus — I have to turn my phone off, my e-mail off, and keep my sight lines relatively clear of anything but the pages of the book. Otherwise, I find myself constantly facing the problem of “my mind is somewhere else” entirely.
The ability to focus on one thing at a time — the ability to single-task — may be a new necessary job skill. I know that it’s a skill that I definitely need to master.