Monday, October 5, 2009


I heard an NPR news article about doodling a while back. The idea behind the story was that doodling is an effective note taking practice because it disingages part of the mind without distracting from the task at hand. According to NPR, Bill Gates and several other highly successful buisnessman often doodle during meetings. Since most people often have their attention divided, the doodler is more engaged than the person who’s mind is wondering completely.

I don’t really think of myself as a doodler, but I am far more likely to scribble in the margins of a piece of paper than to take actual notes. Still the requirement to multi-task in order to focus on something rings true for me. My guess is that I could count all the times my full attention has been focused on a single thought on my fingers and toes. My mind is always divided, and I have gotten very good at channelling my energy in several directions at the same time.

That is the real reason behind my reading 19 books in the month of September. I think of my thoughts as living in two realms. There are the things that I see and feel and there are the things that I hear. If I am only hearing something my mind will make up pictures for myself to see, and if I am only seeing my mind will make up words for me to hear.

When I was in school I listened to audio books because I didn’t know how to read. But listening didn’t give me anything to see, and I often let my mind wonder. Then I discovered video games. By playing video games at the same time as I was listening to my text books, I was able to distract the textile and visual aspects of my mind, enabling me to focus more clearly on the things that I was listening to and my comprehension increased.

I still occationally play video games while listening to audio books in the evening and on weekends. But the majority of my listening is now done not as a primary function but a secondary one. For my job, I am an engineer. That mean that I spend 40+ hours a week living in a world of numbers and pictures and very few words. It is easy for my mind to wonder, I start making up stories and filling my mind with words as I am working. In order to keep myself focused on the tasks at hand, I listen to books. I comprehend the literature I am listening to now, just as well as I comprehended the text books I listened to while beating Super Mario Brothers. But I’m not really listening for the sake of listening. I’m listening to keep myself focused on my work.

I know that it sounds backwards to consiously divide my attention in half. But it is oddly effective. One day last week I accedently left my I-pod at home and had to go through an entire day in silence. But of course it wasn’t silent. The lights were buzzing, the guy in the cubicle next to me was talking, and the voices in my head were doing their best to entertain me. I was so distracted all day, I hardly got anything done. Listening to audio books is definately a more effective time management solution. And averaging 5 books a week is keeping me much more in touch with the current literary trends.

Joke of the Day
Have you heard of the ADD computer virus?
It periodically erases your RAM but your computer runs at 1000 Mhz and multitasks like a supercomputer.

1 comment:

Cory Couture said...

I have to try this! I have NEVER been much of a reader. However, this could be my answer to not only fulfilling my desire for lit, but also a cure for my low attention span. I cannot recall the last time I felt more urge to say "me too!" I also find silence to be most distracting. Even while working on what I enjoy most which is also numbers and diagrams. Thanks for the tip :)