Our Working Memory - Deepstash

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Productive cognitive load: make the most of your working memory

Our Working Memory

Our Working Memory

The limited amount of load we can take on our working memory, which functions like computer RAM, is called the cognitive load.

Miller's Law states that we need to limit our cognitive loads and hold on to approximately seven number of objects at a given time.

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Explaining Cognitive Load Theory (CLT)
Explaining Cognitive Load Theory (CLT)

CLT identifies our minds as information processing systems.

When we work on an unfamiliar task, we depend on our "working memory". It is limited in its capacity and period of time it holds information. The less familiar you are with a task, the more you depend on your working memory. However, when you are familiar with a job, you can complete it on auto-pilot.

Overloading the working memory capacity

Your working memory capacity can be overloaded in three ways, making you feel mentally drained:

  • New routines can prevent you from the ability to do things on auto-pilot and will instead draw on your limited working memory capacity.
  • Anxiety also reduces your working memory capacity, making it more challenging to work through any mental problem that needs problem-solving.
  • Distractions that are not directly relevant to your tasks can further increase the demand on your working memory capacity.
Effective remedial strategies
  • Try to establish new routines and master them so that you are not constantly using your working memory capacity for mundane tasks.
  • It's important to put effort into stress management, meaning eating well, exercising, establishing a bedtime routine, and finding relaxing activities.
  • Focus on organising your time for your tasks and try to be disciplined about distractions.
The Pressure Of Time

Most leaders have familiar approaches to managing time: setting goals, planning, delegating, tracking commitments, and creating to-do lists. While these approaches do help in self-organization, they are not adequate in helping achieve high levels of sustainable, long-term performance.

The challenge is to have a fast-paced occupation while avoiding burnout, slippage, and sub-optimal performance.

Sustainable Productivity

Instead of increasing the number of productive hours, we can focus on getting the right things done in a timely way. We also need to restore and balance ourselves, our colleagues, family and environment, instead of a neurotic or pathological focus on deadlines.

Find out what's truly important to us and use the finite resource of time wisely.

Phantom Workload

Phantom workload looks like real work but results in massive unproductivity and even conflict in an organization. The pressure to meet unrealistic expectations causes a vicious cycle of further workload.

Leaders need to take a hard look at what is being avoided or not addressed. Facing difficult tasks that were 'swept under the carpet' earlier strengthens them further to make hard decisions and face difficult people and situations.

Never stop learning

Research shows that people with more education have a greater cognitive reserve and this works as a protection in the face of mental decline.

But there's a twist to it: educated people tend to get Alzheimer's at a later age but once they get it, they're getting it at a higher load of the disease and appear to decline at a faster rate.

Crosswords

Cognitive activities like crossword puzzles, reading or playing music may delay memory decline among people who eventually developed dementia.

Stereotype threat

It happens when a person is in a situation where they are anxious that they may conform to a negative stereotype aimed at his or her social group.

Positive stereotypes, or success on previous memory tasks, can help combat this negativity.