(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 34)
Ph.D., author of The Overflowing Brain:
Information Overload and the Limits
of Working Memory. When working
memory shrinks, you can find yourself
shifting from chore to chore (without
finishing any of them).
Luckily, you can sharpen and refresh your working memory. Klingberg
recommends activities that demand
concentration, such as playing chess
or a musical instrument—or controlled
multitasking (but don’t do this while
driving). Hallowell suggests calisthenics such as drawing a triangle with one
hand and a square with the other while
tracing a circle with one foot.
You can draw shapes until your brain
smokes, though, and you still won’t
grasp 49 Web pages simultaneously.
And don’t expect the Internet—or the
world—to leave you in peace anytime
soon. It falls to you to control your
information intake. For instance, you
can remove the temptation to surf by
working in a place without Wi-Fi or
even by downloading a program such
as Freedom ( macfreedom.com), which
disables your browser temporarily.
You can also designate a daily time for
Internet surfing. (See “Tame Your Info
Appetite,” page 34, for focusing tips.)
The most satisfying activities are not
passive but instead offer a challenge,
says Winifred Gallagher, author of
Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.
After a long day, though, it may seem
easier to watch TV than to tackle a
tough project—which is why people
tend to spend the most time on the least
fulfilling pursuits, she found.
But the power to refocus is in your
hands. Hallowell recommends an invigorating motivator: calculate how many
minutes you have available. If you sleep
eight hours a night, that leaves about
350,000 waking minutes each year.
Will you fill them with fluff? Or will you
spend them on the pursuits and people
that mean the most to you? ;
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Minneapolis freelancer Katy Read has
written for Salon, More, and Real Simple.