TIL 19: Cognitive Bandwidth


Random Fridays, where I waffle about an article I’ve read during the week!

Following on from posts on (not) Doing All the Things and more generally Time Management, I stumbled across an article on Lifehacker about Cognitive Bandwidth. I’d say it’s worth reading the article behind it all, Why You Feel Busy All the Time – and given this is exactly how I was feeling last week, the read couldn’t have been more timely!

“There are always … more things to read, more ideas to follow up… The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed: we’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to “do it all”, at work and at home, but that’s not just really difficult; it’s a mathematical impossibility.

For me, it wasn’t that I had an untenable list of things to get through last week, but even when I wasn’t doing I had an ongoing ‘whirr’ of “this next, then that tomorrow, don’t forget about…”. Cognitive bandwidth overload!

busyAnd that quote above – the modern to-do list is never empty. Well, mine never is! There’s always something that can be tidied, made, read, watched – my stack of unread books plus those I’d quite like to read might last out several decades by this point! Can we say overwhelm?!

The article doesn’t really offer solutions, but it does point out the contradiction that the busier we are (or feel), the worse our time management skills get.

My own solution? Rephrase a lot of the ‘I should’s into ‘I want’s (I’ve just spent a massive chunk of the weekend cooking – but it’s been fun!). Be realistic with your to do list – maybe write it and cut it in half. Take time to meditate. Plan downtime – and make it proper downtime! There are reasons why going to the cinema is more relaxing than watching a movie in the house (you’ve paid and made the effort to go there, you’re more likely to concentrate rather than have half a mind to jump up and finish the dishes), for example. Pick your task or leisure and focus on just that – this is what mindfulness is all about.


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