The average person can only focus on four things at once. According to the Wall. St. J., Feb. 12, 2008 at B4, which summarizes research from a team at the University of Oregon, the ability to focus on more things at the same time is correlated with IQ. (This boomer found it a relief to learn that “Young people can’t do more things at once than anyone else.”). The research also found “the complexity of the things people try to remember doesn’t matter.”
An in-house lawyer ceases to be very effective if a radio is playing, e-mail pings constantly, a document is on the screen, the Blackberry vibrates, and IM’s arrive from two colleagues. We suffer from information overload that hits from too many directions (See my posts f June 7, 2006 on attention density; July 14, 2005 on diminished productivity from communication devices; July 7, 2005: multi-tasking lowers productivity; May 14, 2006: multi-tasking ability highly ranked by Canadian in-house counsel: and Oct. 2, 2006: multi-tasking’s drawbacks.).