General Question

Trustinglife's avatar

How many things can people keep in their heads at one time?

Asked by Trustinglife (6668points) April 28th, 2008

I’m talking short-term memory.
Bonus points for the person who quotes David Allen – I can’t remember what he said in “Getting Things Done” about how many things we can keep in our head. (I must have one too many things up there.)

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8 Answers

nikipedia's avatar

Seven plus or minus two.

gailcalled's avatar

I can’t help you w. David Allen, but I can say that multi-tasking gets more difficult w. age. I am practically at the stage of pinning my “to-do” list to my shirt. I do best, usually, doing each thing linearly. One of my many pet peeves is to talk on the phone to someone and hear clangings and clinkings in the background. Washing dishes, emptying dish washer, moving large animals, running a cement mixer?

mzgator's avatar

I always have my iphone with my lists on it…grocery lists, ideas for lesson planning, things to do etc. It’s always close at hand and frees my mind for other things. Plus, Gooch is always sure to call if he thinks I have forgotten to do something…haha!

whatthefluther's avatar

David Allen basically says to clear the mind by writings to-dos down, determining next actions, devising plans and reviewing your lists and notes regularly so those things won’t clutter your mind. Here’s a link with a good summary:

wildflower's avatar

I’ve heard somewhere that the average is 7 and a well-trained memory can hold up to 13 items.
I’m a big fan of memory games and for anyone on an iPhone, I’d recommend MindDojo

Trustinglife's avatar

Thanks, y’all.
@whatthefluther, that was a fantastic article! I practice GTD daily and coach people on it, but I still learned all kinds of things about David Allen’s life from that article. Thanks!

In my own looking into this question, I found this answer from one of David’s top trainers. She makes a good point, which is that the mind can only focus on 2 or 3 things at a time – and can only do one of them!

loser's avatar

it depends on the head

whatthefluther's avatar

@Trustinglife…You are very welcome. I worked for one of the major corporations mentioned in the article and actually attended the also-mentioned Steven Covey Productivity Seminar that preaches similar methods. Some of my coworkers had attended David Allen’s seminar a year or two prior. If you do much multi-tasking, you are probably already utilizing notes, lists and action plans in some sort of format. These guys formalized, organized and systematized the process into an orderly effective tool.

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