Monday, March 27, 2006

Activity versus Accomplishment

Does the following scenario sound familiar? So you’ve been working for an hour and a half. Your papers are all organized and nicely hole-punched; your textbook is covered in highlighter; your room is super clean; and you printed your notes for the next 3 weeks. But you haven’t learned a thing.

Ouch. A little too close to home? Yeah, same here.

This isn’t to say that those tasks aren’t important, but we shouldn’t fool ourselves. When we are supposed to be studying, we should be working hard on studying. The time for those other tasks can come later, they are not as important.

It would be better to devote a certain period of time to intense working (around 60 to 90 minutes works well for me), rather than attempting to do many tasks at once. Although many people claim to be accomplished multi-taskers, research has shown that attempting to multi-task while performing mentally strenuous work significantly reduces performance. (If you want me to cite this, it will take me a while. I read it in New Scientist a while ago.)

This means that we can study or work more efficiently if we stick to one task at a time. I find that I retain a lot more when concentrating on one subject at a time. Some may think this is really obvious, but it is important to reinforce such an important point.

Activity is only the same as accomplishment when we devote our full attention to something. We must stay real with ourselves, a lot of motion only amounts to something good, if we can say we are one step closer to our goals.

Update: I found an article that is pretty similar to the one I read, but I’m pretty sure the one I read was quite a bit longer:
One at a time (opens in new window)

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