Our minds are only capable to really see one thing at a time. Just like they are able to do only one thing at a time. We constantly switch from object to object and from task to task. The limited vision we have is perfect for focusing on the thing that is right in front of us. Just as the lack of multitasking capabilities is well suited to batch processing. Let me explain.
Looks can be deceiving
When I look around me I see everything in detail and color. From the large furniture in the room to the small coffee cup that is standing right in front of me. It is almost like a large three-dimensional photograph I can move around in. But looks can be deceiving.
In reality I see much less. I don’t really see a large, three-dimensional picture of the living room I am sitting in. Instead I see a continually changing sketch. Sketched by someone with a lot of imagination. With the human eye we can really only see a small circular region, about the size of a coin, at arm’s length. Outside this region our eye only perceives a blurry, colorless image. The rest is filled in by the talented sketch artist in our minds.
Our brain can also perceive just one object at a time. It uses its – relatively scarce – resources to focus on one object at a time. Most of the world around us is stable. The keyboard of the computer I was just typing on will probably still be there later so I don’t really need to see it all of the time. I just need to remember where it is so I can find the keys when I want to.
This is similar to our brain having the illusion of multitasking when all it does is just switch from task to task. Instead of multitasking we should really use the word taskswitching.
So, we have learned that we can only see one thing at a time and that we can only do one thing at a time. That is all the computers in our skulls are capable of. Instead of seeing this as some kind of shortcoming, we should see this as a strength. The limited vision we have is perfect for focusing on the thing that is right in front of us and the lack of multitasking capabilities is well suited to batch processing.
What is batch processing? We were already using the analogy between the brain and a computer. In computing, batch processing refers to a computer working through a queue (batch) of separate jobs. Similarly, when we need to complete a series of tasks (jobs) we should act like a computer running a batch. Finishing one task at a time in a particular order.
Little bite-sized chunks of work
How can we use this knowledge? To be able to run a successful batch of tasks we must be able to line up the tasks in the right order. This requires us to first recognize all the different tasks we need to do to complete a large task. Second we need to put all the different tasks in the right order.
When you have a job to do, start with planning. Sit down and break the job up in little bite-sized chunks of work. Then think about how to put all these chunks in the right order. Then start batch processing, stay focused and enjoy your progress!
Just like a computer, our brains can overheat. So make sure to take breaks from time to time. Preferably for five minutes every half hour.