"Monday 5 Things" with D. Paul Graham


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Photo: D. Paul Graham

Monday 5 Things…..A Tired Mind…..

A few years ago, I read a fascinating book by Daniel Levitin titled “The Organized Mind”, published in 2014. Levitin’s thesis is that one’s lack of productivity and loss of drive is a result of information overload. He says we live in a world of 300 exabytes (300 billion billion) of information thrown at us each and every day and growing at an increasing pace. But, oops, neuroscientists say there is a bandwidth disconnect – apparently the human brain can only process 120 bits per second. Following a week that left me with a very tired mind, M5T shares some of the points that Levitin makes in his book.

1. Decisions

Most of us can rank the importance of decisions, but our brain doesn’t automatically sort the important from the mundane. As we are bombarded with more and more information and making or choosing between many, mostly small, decisions of where we spend our time, our brain simply gets tired. Studies were cited showing that people who had to make a series of meaningless decisions made significantly poorer decisions for more important subsequent decisions.

2. Processing

In order to understand what one person is saying, we process 60 bits of information per second, on average. If our brains processing speed limit is 120 bits per second, we can barely understand two people talking at the same time. Makes sense why misunderstandings occur talking to one person while we have one eye on our smart phones and are texting, Facebooking, and/or Tweeting at the same time. Add driving a car into the mix and you can see where decision making abilities and focus breaks down.

3. Volume

By 2011 we took in 5 times more information each and every day than we did in 1986 – that’s equal to 175 newspapers. In 1986 we sent out – mainly by post, telephone and fax – around two and a half pages of newspaper each day. By 2007, this had increased to six 85-page newspapers each day thanks to email, digital photography, and social media sites. Not counting work time information, you will likely process 34 gigabytes, or about 100,000 words today.

4. Watching

Over 21,000 television stations produce over 85,000 hours of programing every day. Most Americans watch a mind-numbing 5 hours of TV a day. YouTube uploads 6,000 hours of video each day – no comment on how many YouTube videos I watch since cutting my cable TV cord three years ago. Computer gaming consumes more bytes than DVD’s, TV, book, magazines, and the internet, combined!

5. Fatigue 

Every time we turn to Facebook to “Like” something or to update our status, every tweet, and every benign text or email that we send competes with more important things we should be focused on. We are simply starving our neurons, overworking our brains with inconsequential information and we get tired. Whew - it’s no wonder we can’t remember all these darn passwords on our computers, cell phones, and tablets. And where the heck did I leave my car keys?

Here’s to feeding and refreshing your neurons with healthy stuff this week!

© 2018 D. Paul Graham, all rights reserved.

D. Paul Graham is passionate about people, culture, photography and business. He has embraced his wanderlust with his travels around the globe and is at peace with his need for spirited drives in all things automotive.

You can find M5T each Monday here on www.southmag.com and by friending D. Paul Graham on Facebook. Paul is also a contributing photographer to South Magazine. His photographic work can be found on Instagram @dpgraham and at www.imageGRAHAM.com . Your feedback is always welcome. Email Paul at dpg@imagegraham.com