Daniel L. Levitin, author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, wrote recently in the New York Times that an essential key to optimizing focus, creativity and productivity is to schedule different kinds of work activities at different times during the day. Partitioning activities this way allows the brain to function most appropriately for various tasks.
When we’re constantly shifting from one task to another – emailing here, phone calls there, jumping in and out of meetings – attention weakens, energy drains and our creative juices are stifled.
The brain actually uses two separate modes of attention. Focused, detailed activities require our narrower “task-positive” mode, while our other, non-directed, “task negative” attention mode allows creative insights and innovative solutions to arise naturally.
The two modes operate independently of one another, so separating dissimilar work activities is important because it allows the brain to transition efficiently from one mode to the other. Taking a break between different kinds of tasks by listening to music or going for a walk in nature provides space for the mind open and relax. We experience a restorative mental re-boot that invigorates attention, self-confidence, and engagement.