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Doing more than one thing at once - your brain just can't do it!

Life rushes by at such a pace and we are often tempted to do more than one thing at once. We call it multitasking and some people are proud of their ability to multitask. But multitasking doesn't really exist. You're not doing lots of things at once. You are rapidly, and ineffectively, switching between different activities very quickly. 

The powerful computer I am writing this article on seems like it is doing lots of things at once. But it's an illusion. The computer has four brains (otherwise known as a quad core processor) so can, in theory, do four things at once but it's power is the ability to switch quickly and seamlessly from one thing to another. If it does 'too much' of this switching then it overheats.

If I do too much of the switching I will get very stressed, rather ineffective and unless I heed the warning signals more than likely burn out (nice term, we used to call it a nervous breakdown). And the bottom line is I won't have been paying sufficient attention to anything in particular to have got anything important done.

A Stanford University study shows just why multitasking doesn't work in practice.

So why not enjoy your day and experience by doing one thing at once. Read the book, write the report or (gosh!) just listen to the person in front of you and pay full attention to what they are saying. And give up reading your email whilst you're on the phone to someone else... it's not big, it's not clever and you might just miss something important.

"True productivity means completing things of quality – not simply doing lots of things at the same time and completing very little." - Jim Benson

"The key to just doing anything is not doing everything else"


Dr Simon the artist?

What happens when you set yourself a challenge to learn how to draw and ask 25 of your students to define the parameters?

Er, four drawings and a submission to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition plus presenting at the school End of Year event and publishing on the school website.

The four drawings are:

  • Self portrait
  • Aluminimum foil including representation of light and shade
  • 3D object
  • Abstract picture

I guess after challenging thirty bright teenage girls to be the best they can be I wasn't going to be allowed to get away with an easy option.

Just one small problem. I CAN'T DRAW. Yet!

So watch this space. I have to learn how to draw, get drawing and do a good job, something I, and my students, can be proud of. I'm nervous as hell. Maybe this is what I put them through?

I'm off to read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and learn how to hold a pencil properly...


On giving up

Saturday 20th October was my first run since the half marathon two weeks earlier. I planned for about an hour run. The first 20 minutes or so were fine and by the halfway point I realised I was going a bit faster than usual. then it started to hurt. Not my legs or my knees but my heart and chest. It was painful not just uncomfortable. I couldnt see how I was going to run another 15 to 20 minutes. So I told myself, just make it to this bus stop and see how you feel. Slow down a bit up this hill and then use the downhill stretch to get your breath back a bit. It still hurt. I didn't want to continue but I didn't want to give up. I knew why I was in this position. I was out of practice and I had gone off too fast and I wasn't using the right skills and techniques.

So I started telling myself finishing didn't matter. I focused on the next small step - reaching the next bus stop, the church, the big road junction. Every time I reached that small target I was able to push myself a bit further. I went a bit slower so I wasn't damaging myself. And I made it to the end.

This was a practical and valuable lesson. I learned another way of overcoming the desire to give up. I learned to slow down (rather than stop), to plan and make small steps, to reach the end by working through the discomfort (without causing myself serious damage) and gave myself another experience of making it through after I thought I wouldn't. So the next time I'm tempted to give up I can remember this experience and know that I can make it to the end and reach my goal.


One hour, fifty six minutes and thirteen seconds

That's what it took to run my first half marathon at the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday 7th October 2012. Ten weeks earlier I couldn't run for fifteen minutes without wanting to throw up.

This has been a lesson to me in setting a goal (a SMART target), following a plan, making it work and achieving (and celebrating) the end result.

I will continue running and will definitely sign up for Royal Parks 2013. As far ideas about the London Marathon... well never say never but my next challenge is learning how to draw.


Can't run or can I? Help me raise money for UNICEF

I've never been good at running. I keep fairly fit by walking a lot but I never believed in myself that I could actually run 'properly'. One Friday night, just eight weeks ago, I read a piece by Dave Hill in the Guardian on my phone about the Royal Parks Half Marathon and thought "why not?"

So eight weeks later, a very good pair of well engineered running shoes and a commitment to practice - running three times a week - and I'm just two weeks and two days from the big day. http://fundraise.unicef.org.uk/MyPage/drsimondavey

I'm doing this for a number of reasons:

1. I run a Saturday school intervention programme which is all about raising young people's aspirations, resilience and achievement. We work together so they believe in themselves, tackle challenges and get better and better at the things they thought they couldn't do. Running is something I thought I couldn't do. So I chose to try, made a plan and got on with it. A half marathon is a big scary but achieveable target. If my twelve year old students can take a risk and try 'impossible' things I damn well should.

2. I am committed to supporting children to have a better life wherever they are both through my work and sponsorship. Raising money for UNICEF feels like a good thing to do.

3. My mum died at the beginning of this year. It made me realise more than ever that life is too short for excuses and that I should stop saying I'm rubbish at things and either do them properly or forget about them.

So this is me doing 'running' properly. It's not hard. It took a goal, practice, the right tools (running shoes) and here we are. I've already run 13.25 miles in training in 2 hours 5 minutes so the distance holds no fears.

If you would like to support UNICEF (and I will run 13.1 miles two weeks on Sunday on their behalf), please donate at http://fundraise.unicef.org.uk/MyPage/drsimondavey