Life overload

August 18, 2016



Our brains when we multi-task. Or street art in Salamanca, Spain.

We are a society overloaded with information, and I fear, overloaded with activity. We’re too damn busy, that’s what I think.

I’m thinking of myself, of course, and also some friends I know who are full up with things on their plate.  Not even related things–just a random assortment of this and that, all worthwhile, but so many! So many things that eat up their time and energy. That, done at the same time, are killing our brains. Oh, read on for this.


We start something and then something else interesting comes up so we grab on to that  (Squirrel!!) but we don’t let go of the first thing. So now we have two interesting activities, but hey! Here’s another, I want to try that!  That makes three, and then, naturally, a fourth comes up. But what about organizing the office, renovating the bedroom, hanging with friends? Reading a book? Listening to music? Having romantic time? Being spontaneous?

Or time to just plain relax and reflect?

No time, because we’re too busy. Too damn busy.

And is all that activity really productive? Something has to give and that means that some things we thought were so important months ago are left behind in favor of the new shiny thing.

I’ve seen it in my life and I’ve seen it in the lives of people I know and it is starkly apparent that it doesn’t promote a healthy life. Yet we hang on to it and defend it to the death. Of our brains.

I’ve had to stop to consider:

Is multi-tasking really good for us?

When we were younger, we believed we were great multi-taskers, and maybe we were. At work we were expected to do more and more with less and less. Setting limits for ourselves was NOT part of the game.

I remember being expected at a Saturday morning meeting with my CEO, but the night before I’d had to admit myself to the emergency room with flu. After getting drugs and fluids all night, I went to the meeting looking beat to hell. I mean, seriously? Talk about not being able to set limits. I would make a different decision today.

But that’s the way it was when we were young and climbing the ladder to “success.” We failed to set limits for ourselves. In fact, many employers didn’t want us to.

Now, older and supposedly wiser, the habit is hard to break. We stick to those old ways of living and working. But is that wise?

Research on cognition today tells us that the mind is not made for heavy-duty multitasking. The brain’s not built for it. A Stanford University study showed that multitasking is less productive than doing one thing at a time, and it may even damage the brain and lower your IQ.

The message is clear: The brain loves focus.

The problem with multi-tasking and with overloading ourselves with stuff to do is that we risk not doing any of it well. Stop and consider that.

So. If we were really honest, we’d ask ourselves, what was on our “important to do” list six months ago and is it still there? If it isn’t, what happened to it? And what’s replaced it? How many different things are we trying to do at once? And how committed are we to them — and to the quality of our lives? To health?

How serious are we about any of this?

Those are the questions I’m asking myself. Maybe we should all be asking ourselves the same ones.

But don’t take my word for it.  You might read this: Multitasking is Killing Your Brain.

23 comments on “Life overload
  1. I believe it! I think that is why women get so stressed all the time. I can feel my brain telling me to slow down and just meditate for a while. Great post as always!

  2. pia says:

    I think that a lot.
    Last night I found myself reading about the oddest diseases—10 ways to tell if….and realized for the thousandth time how even if you’re not consciously thinking it, you can end up a hypochondriac or actually mimic the symptoms or…

  3. Mary Lovstad says:

    Something I’ve been trying to tell my college students for ages — thanks!

  4. Jennifer says:

    It certainly lowers our attention span!! I hate multitasking but find it a hard habit to break.

  5. Wow, this: “The problem with multi-tasking and with overloading ourselves with stuff to do is that risk not doing any of it well. Stop and consider that.

    I’m not an Oprah-quoting person but I saw a little clip last week about staying on track and I can’t shake this one line: “Get still and decide on the next right thing.” Just do the next right thing and nothing else and then the one that comes next.

    Simple? Obvious? Yes. And has it taken me five decades and change to understand it? Yes. Your post today nails that “more is less” attitude I’ve literally been voicing right out loud when my mind can’t stay on the here for the “later.”

  6. Oh boy, I (think) am the multi-tasking queen! I’m abdicating my throne! It’s not for midlife women. I literally just sat down to make sure my 6am post published (thought I had forgotten to set the featured image), took care of it (I had), then.. SQUIRREL, then FACEBOOK, then read this, then OMG. No wonder I can’t started on my next book. Great post, Carol, thanks for the reminder to focus!

  7. Peggy says:

    I SUCK at multitasking and used to say I was the queen of multitasking. Truth is, when I multitask, nothing gets my full attention. Nada. And that’s not good for anything I’m working on and it’s not good for me, either.

  8. The older I get the more I think multitasking is like having ADH. I’m trying to finish one task at a time. Brenda

  9. I used to think multi-tasking was a great talent. But I have seen that study. At first, it made me mad because it took away something Ithought I was good at. Hah! My uncle just told me about a book he gives to his grad students,’Thinking Fast and Slow” where we are all fast thinkers, but the slow thinkers probably get more quality accomplished. I just saw it on Amazon. But apparently we are all too busy because there’s a companion book….the SUMMARY of THINKING FAST AND SLOW…I’ll probably get that one ‘ cause I got stuff to do…HAHHAHA. As always, a sherpa to us all you are, Carol!

  10. Hi Carol! I so agree. Although I think women’s minds are more adaptible multi-tasking (throughout history women had to tend the kids AND get work done) it doesn’t always serve us as science is now proving. As I like to say,-“Just because we can doesn’t mean we should!” I think that is why I am such an advocate for meditation. It REALLY helps train the mind to focus. ~Kathy

  11. This is a great reminder to slow down and stay focused. Which I will hopefully get around to one of these days.

  12. Barbara says:

    I sometimes go into borderline panic when I can’t remember something. Immediately I think Alzheimer’s. I know it’s going off the deep end, but it happens more often than I want to think about. Some of us who are of a certain age have to admit to ourselves that we weren’t really all that great when we multi-tasked in the past and we certainly can’t continue to do it as we age.

  13. Diane says:

    I go with the ‘Good, Better and Best’ way of thinking. Yes, I could do this. But this is better. And this is best! Yep. That’s the one!

  14. Frances D says:

    I read the article and this part of it:
    “The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”
    got me thinking about teen-agers and how they are playing games/texting/ etc. while doing their schoolwork and other tasks – could lead to some very dangerous folks in control of things eventually.
    As always I was glad for little extra time to catch up with favorite bloggers like you. Peace, Love & Chocolate

  15. Thanks…I needed this today. Going off to prioritize.

  16. Roz Warren says:

    Loved the post. REALLY loved that smart-ass caption on the illustration. I love funny captions.

  17. sue says:

    I hear you Carol! I’ve never been busier and yet I’m supposed to be retired. I admit I used to wear my multi-tasking capability as a badge of honour but these days I’m really trying to just slow the pace a little. Unfortunately, my personality doesn’t always conform. My word for 2016 was Balance – finding more balance in my life – some days I succeed others I fail. Great post as usual thanks.

  18. I am seriously in trouble of losing my mind. I have never been so easily distracted as I have been lately. Like you Carol I never took a sick day. I went to work 4 days after gall bladder surgery because I wanted a promotion. I’d definitely make a wiser decision today too.
    My fall goals are definitely to focus on one thing at a time.

  19. Rosemond says:

    Squirrel! That is so me. It does make me feel so very disoriented to continually jump tasks. A very bad habit to get into.

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