Modern Life Sucks: 4 Ways The Status Quo Is Wrong
The more books I read (Brain Rules, Predictably Irrational and Freakonomics to name a few recent ones) and the more I write on this blog, the more I come across ideas and concepts that go against the conventional advice dished out by businesses, schools and the media in general. This is in some ways alarming. Millions of people are born, grow up and lives their lives based on traditional ideas that are sometimes outdated, occasionally misleading and often contradictory to scientific research and logic. Is it any wonder that we are generally less happy, less well off and often in careers we hate nowadays? Below I’ve detailed four concepts where, when it comes to being productive organized and just generally living stress-free, the world has got it badly wrong. Can you think of any others?
Our brains can cope
We don’t know very much about the brain at all. Just ask any neuroscientist. We know it’s powerful – more so than any other species on the planet – but as a result it’s easy to take for granted just how much it can cope with, how much information it can take in and how much stress it can handle. Wondering why you have an headache? Trying to do your homework while listening to music, checking your Facebook page and texting your friends may have something to do with it. The brain does have limits so be aware of the stresses you’re putting it under.
Everything is balanced
It’s easy, perhaps comforting, to assume that everything in the world is harmoniously split down the middle and that everything is black and white. On the one hand you can assume that all customers are equally valuable and that every task serves a purpose. On the other hand you can assume that the number of great, good and bad films are all equally split or that the difference between the number of highly successful staff and average staff is roughly balanced. The world always finds it equilibrium.
But a little analysis goes a long way and as the 80/20 rule demonstrates, the world is anything but balanced, in fact it’s often predictably unbalanced to rather extreme lengths. A very small percentage of your customers bring in the majority of profits, a number of staff make the most sales, most of the value in your life comes from a just a few activities, etc. Instead of inefficiently spreading our time, energy and attention over a wide area should we not be focusing it on the stuff that really makes a difference?
There’s never enough time
Time management. It seems everybody is at it nowadays trying to squeeze more out of their time and constantly looking for ways to add a few extra minutes into their day. We want more time to do stuff, more time to be able to get things done, more time to be able to do a good job, be with our family, enjoy ourselves and indulge in hobbies and interests. But every time we make more time we always seem to fill it with the same old stuff. It’s like trying to dig a hole in the sand when the tide is coming in (read my post on time wasting for a better understanding).
According to Parkinson’s law we’re coming at it the wrong way. Work expands to fill the time available to it. When time is tight or you have a short deadline, you’re focused to focus on the essentials. When you’ve given a week to do a job that should take a day, it suddenly becomes a BIG DEAL!!! We can’t make more time for ourselves – there will always be only 24 hours in the day. However we can do our work in much less time than we often think.
We can multitask
It’s a fact that humans cannot multitask. When it comes to attention rich activity like reading a book with the TV on in the background, or talking on the phone while driving, you’re brain is constantly having to flick attention back and forth. Imagine that there are two rooms next to each other, each containing an activity that both need doing at the same time. You have to keep dashing between the two rooms closing and opening the doors as you go. This is essentially how multitasking works in the brain. With all the door closing and rushing between rooms, that’s a lot of wasted energy. Why then, are businesses so obsessed with it?!