Experimental life

Laboratory experiments only get so interesting; if you want go a little further, you need to test your theories in the field. And when it comes to social science, what could be more engaging that using yourself as an experimental subject? Journalist and author AJ Jacobs has done exactly this for his book ‘The Guinea Pig Diaries’ (just released as a paperback titled ‘My Experimental Life‘). There’s a little taster on the Guardian site in the form of lengthy extract. The extract describes Jacobs’ attempts at uni-tasking (as opposed to multi-tasking) his way through life. He takes the principles of uni-tasking pretty far, which makes for a more entertaining read, but he makes some valuable observations on productivity along the way.

Jacobs reports that uni-tasking is a productivity booster; this rings true for me. Every time you stop yourself drifting towards a ‘quick’ browse of your favourite web sites, you win back at least 5-10 minutes of productive time. I’ve always thought that many of today’s ‘time savers’ (consider all the things you can do from your web browser that would have required an in-person visit in the past) force the mind to go into multi-tasking mode, thereby making for a double-edged sword in terms of net productivity. This is why I signed up for Tim Ferriss’ low information diet and haven’t looked back since.