In 21st century schools and businesses we are taught to associate “multitasking” with efficiency, productivity, and competency. But what exactly does it mean to multitask? How many different tasks can the brain focus on at the same time? Two? Three? As it turns out, science has consistently shown that the human brain can only sustain attention on one item at a time (1). Our overestimation of our attentional capacity stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of multitasking and of the human attentional system as a whole. The now felonious act of driving while talking on the cell phone will serve as a good example to examine the common misconceptions surrounding multitasking. The conscious experience of driving while talking on the phone is perceived as unified, fluid, and seamless, but this is a mental mirage.
I spent a day with the world’s number one ultraman Kilian Jornet back in 2010. He told me about the difference between his life in the mountains and the life he sees in the city. Kilian spends most of his life in the mountains. He will run up and down Everest next year. He has already run up and down Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Montblanc and Cervino (setting the record for the fastest ascent on each). He says that he knows his destination, but is often doubtful about the exact path – he is very aware of surroundings, of changes in the weather, of loose rocks. He is constantly adjusting his path.
It’s finally December, and you’ve worked hard all year long. You wrote enough emails to fill a novel. You spent an average of seven hours a day on your computer. And, if you were working full-time, you probably spent 42 hours of your life battling traffic during your daily commute. Whoa. If anyone deserves a chance to kick back and relax, it’s you! But as tempting as it may be to spend the rest of December curled up with a big mug of cocoa, a snuggly blanket, and a never-ending Netflix queue, you probably want to avoid hibernating all month long.Regardless of whether your job status is employed or unemployed, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of getting a jump-start on your career in the year ahead in the final days of the month. Use the next few weeks wisely so that you can finish 2015 feeling clear, focused, and organized when the year comes to an inevitable close.
Unlike so many other questions you have about your career, this one’s not quite as easy to Google. (Or—shameless plug—to look up on The Daily Muse.) The good news is, you’re not alone—in fact, I’ll guarantee that everyone has pondered it at some point. And luckily, many of them are willing to share their advice. If you’re at a loss for what steps to take next, read on for the best pieces of advice from a recent Quora thread on this very issue. 1. Talk to people. Meet or call at least 50 people. They can be your friends, relatives, friends of friends/references. Call them up, schedule a meeting, go see them and interact with them on what they are doing. Don’t expect anything, don’t ask them to find you a job, don’t ask them to give you a job. Just talk and meet and have a normal conversation.