Cheaper by the Dozen

Most intriguing in today's stack of book reviews is The Overflowing Brain, by Torkel Klingberg. The Wall Street Journal review by Christopher F. Chabris, "You Have Too Much Mail" , describes a time-attention study of an average office manager. Not that long ago, time-motion studies led to improved efficiency.

Most of our motions are "clicks" of the mouse these days, and our efficiency is suffering. As a sixth-grader I was fascinated reading Frank B. Gilbreth's Cheaper By the Dozen. The Gilbreth's twelve children provided inspiration and practicums for their parents' management consulting business.

According to the WSJ review, Klingberg's book suggests our Stone Age brains are in conflict with the present information overload. There's much to ponder as this relates to my school environment.

Our brains predispose us to shift our attention whenever novel events occur in the present moment. In Stone Age applications, we needed to be ever-vigilant for saber tooth tiger threats and unfamiliar situations in order to survive. Alas, that programs our brains to check every new message to our email inbox, every fluorescent light tube flicker, and HVAC blower cycles. We haven't evolved the skill to discriminate between life-threatening and trivial situations.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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