Saturday, March 17, 2012

Priorities of a Wandering Mind

Ever wonder about your priorities? Turns out there's a simple test to help you identify them.

A new study published in the journal Psychological Science determined that working memory can show you what's important.

Working memory is the process that not only moves information from short-term to long-term memory, but also allows you to select what input receives your attention. It also determines the actions you take, and in what order you do them.

How do you use this information to see your priorities? Pay attention the nest time you're doing a routine task. Do you think about absent family members while doing dishes? Wonder about your pet when you're at work? Ponder financial problems as you drive? Your working memory directs your thoughts to the topics of most interest to you at the time.

Lots of mental wandering while doing the mundane may seem upsetting. Exactly the opposite is true. The more you focus on other things when you're bored, the higher the capacity of your working memory. This isn't true when distractions are present.

It's important to be aware of the journeys your working memory is taking. Too many mental side trips may cause you not to remember a drive home, or miss important details while reading. This happens because you're using too many cognitive resources on your daydreams.

Do you have a problem? How many times did your attention wander as you read this post? Where did your thoughts go? Did your intellectual absenteeism impact what you needed to do? Only you can answer these questions.