img_1507There is absolutely no doubt that this young lady is focused on the task at hand, learning how to sew with her Granny. This last  week at Memory Matters there was much to learn about the power of focus and the danger of multi-tasking.

Multi-tasking is the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time. Gary Keller Author of “The One Thing”.

The theme of the Connections Club program was “focus“, a recurring subject for all of our day programs. As an example we asked the participants to attempt to answer a series of written non-political questions dealing with the Legislative Branch of the US Government. Most people with mild cognitive impairment or some symptoms of early memory loss can easily cope with questions such us “what are the two branches of Congress”, or “how many people are elected to the Senate” but they would find it much more difficult to state how many Representatives sit in the House or which territories can sit in the House without voting rights.

My observation points to the importance of challenging this particular group of participants to stretch their brains and focus on finding the answers to the questions. One at a time! As always we do this in a failure free environment. It makes no sense to work with overly simplistic or easy questions and puzzles and as a regular volunteer I’m often told by the Club Members that they expect to be challenged. How much better the feeling of self esteem when they succeed?!

Coincidently the Brain Boosters session that my wife and I attended later in the day had the same theme. Focus.

Most of us watch toddlers multi-tasking. My own 20 month old Grandson impressed me tremendously last week as he learned the words to a song I was teaching him, while at the same time he dextrously assembled some Lego! He was able to assemble and sing (in tune!) at the same time. Amazing!

Unfortunately for us a little further advanced in years, the act of multi-tasking in anything other than a leisure activity could be disasterous. Cathee gave the example of texting or speaking on a cell phone while driving a car.

She explained that the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a vital region in the brain that regulates thought in terms of short and long term decision making. It allows us to plan ahead and respond to situations, but it also helps to focus our thoughts, pay attention, concentrate and learn. Neurological researchers have proven that the PFC becomes less active when we practice multi tasking for anything more complex than say drinking coffee while watching the World Series. By multi tasking we lose efficiency and, in effect, waste our time. During this session of Brain Boosters Cathee conducted an experiment with the group which conclusively proved this point.

I later read an interesting article in Forbes Magazine that further corroborated the above. “Research conducted at Stanford University found that multi-tasking is less productive than doing a single thing at a time. The researchers also found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information cannot pay attention, recall information, or switch from one job to another as well as those who complete one task at a time”.

“But what if some people have a special gift for multi-tasking? The Stanford researchers compared groups of people based on their tendency to multi-task and their belief that it helps their performance. They found that heavy multi-taskers—those who multi-task a lot and feel that it boosts their performance—were actually worse at multi-tasking than those who like to do a single thing at a time. The frequent multi-taskers performed worse because they had more trouble organizing their thoughts and filtering out irrelevant information, and they were slower at switching from one task to another”!

“Research also shows that, in addition to slowing you down, multi-tasking lowers your IQ. A study at the University of London found that participants who multi-tasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night! IQ drops of 15 points for multi-tasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8-year-old child”!

So FOCUS is the operative word and challenge in our lives. It was explained to us that the pay-off is a more even “flow” when we are totally absorbed in an activity to the exclusion of everything else. Flow creates a sense of fulfillment, engagement and contentment. I know that when I practice playing my guitar I can  focus and enjoy the flow!

Be like a postage stamp—stick to one thing until you get there. Quote from Steve Jobs


Please share this if you believe it will help someone you know. For more information about Memory Matters Community Services please don’t hesitate to call. 1 843 842 6688


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