Friday, November 4, 2016

Can You Monotask?

Stop what you’re doing.

Well, keep reading. Just stop everything else that you’re doing.

Mute your music. Turn off your television. Put down your sandwich and ignore that text message. While you’re at it, put your phone away entirely. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone. In which case, don’t. But the other rules still apply.)

Just read.

You are now monotasking.

Maybe this doesn’t feel like a big deal. Doing one thing at a time isn’t a new idea.

Indeed, multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.

Personally, I think I am an expert multitasker, when in fact I should be an expert monotasker. Multitasking is not as cool as it sounds. Earlier research out of Stanford revealed that self-identified “high media multitaskers” are actually more easily distracted than those who limit their time toggling.

So, in layman’s terms, by doing more you’re getting less done.

But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn’t just about getting things done. Not the same as mindfulness, which focuses on emotional awareness, monotasking is a 21st-century term for what your high school English teacher probably just called “paying attention.”

A former student of mine, was happy to hear that his single-minded manner might be undergoing a rebrand. “When I was looking for jobs and interviewing, they’d always want me to say, ‘I’m a great multitasker,’ ” he said. “And I wouldn’t. My inability to multitask was seen as a negative. Now I can just say, ‘I am a monotasker. I am someone who works best when I focus on one thing at a time.’ ”

And the way we work can have effects that kick in long after we clock out.

As much as people would like to believe otherwise, humans have finite neural resources that are depleted every time we switch between tasks, which, especially for those who work online can happen upward of 400 times a day, according to a 2016 University of California, Irvine study. That’s why you feel tired at the end of the day. You have used them all up. The term “brain dead” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

A good sign you’ve task-switched yourself into a stupor: mindlessly scrolling Facebook at the end of the night. I just stuff my brain full of them because I can’t manage to do anything else. The sad thing is that I don’t get any closer to deciding which one I like.

But monotasking can also make work itself more enjoyable. I can multitask — and do, of course; it’s kind of essential — but I prefer to do one thing at a time, if I keep looking at my phone or my inbox or various websites, working feels a lot more tortuous. When I’m focused and making progress, work is actually pleasurable.

Almost any experience is improved by paying full attention to it. Attention is one way your brain decides, Is this interesting? Is this worthwhile? Is this fun?

It’s the reason television shows we tweet through feel tiresome and books we pick up and put down and pick up again never seem to end. The more we allow ourselves to be distracted from a particular activity, the more we feel the need to be distracted. Paying attention pays dividends.

This is why, according the ability to monotask might be most valuable in social situations. Research shows that just having a phone on the table is sufficiently distracting to reduce empathy and rapport between two people who are in conversation.

Monotasking can also be as simple as having a conversation.

Practice how you listen to people, “Pinky and the Brain” are you paying attention. Put down anything that’s in your hands and turn all of your attentional channels to the person who is talking. You should be looking at them, listening to them, and your body should be turned to them. If you want to see a benefit from monotasking, if you want to have any kind of social rapport or influence on someone, that’s the place to start. That’s where you’ll see the biggest payoff.

So is monotasking a movement? It’s not there yet. But I think it will be.

If enough people pay attention to it, that is.

What did you say?????

OH CANADA LET ME IN - Trump's pathway to 270 electoral votes, although possible, remains narrow. To be even more reductive, it is unlikely Trump wins the White House if he does not win Florida. Similarly, most pathways for a Clinton victory require her to win Pennsylvania. She can afford to lose certain battleground states (including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina) given her polling in others, but it's hard to see her winning the White House if she loses Pennsylvania.

Polling in Ohio shows Trump with more than a three-point lead on average and shows Trump tied with Clinton in Florida and North Carolina (according to Real Clear Politics). Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania remains solid, however, with an average four-point lead over Trump. ... Regardless, with a tightening race and a larger number of undecided voters this election cycle, the chances of an unexpected election outcome are not immaterial - and that could cause continued repricing in the market, as we've seen over the past few days.

CHANGE IN THE HEARTLAND - Small towns in the Midwest have diversified more quickly than almost any part of the U.S. since the start of an immigration wave at the beginning of this century. The resulting cultural changes appear to be moving the political needle. U.S. census data shows that counties in a distinct cluster of Midwestern states—Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota—saw among the fastest influxes of nonwhite residents of anywhere in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. That shift helps explain the emergence of Donald Trump as a political force and signals that tensions over immigration will likely outlive his candidacy. Among GOP voters in this year’s presidential primaries, those in counties that diversified rapidly were more likely to vote for the New York businessman. Meanwhile, with polls showing the presidential race tightening, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump are moving advertising dollars and fine-tuning their closing arguments during the final week of one of the most unpredictable elections in modern history.

CLINTON/TRUMP LIKE TO SLEEP AT HOME - In a campaign of unprecedented contrasts, it is one of the most striking similarities between Clinton and Donald Trump. Here are two well-to-do New Yorkers who add hours of travel to their schedules, and thousands of dollars to their campaign expenses, in order to avoid sleeping in the Middle America they promise they are running to represent.

For Trump, near-nightly returns to Manhattan - from as far west as Reno, Nevada - mean a chance to sleep in his marble-and-gold hued 66th floor penthouse in Trump Tower.For Clinton, the hops to Chappaqua allow her to spread out in her colonial five-bedroom home, complete with 1.1 acres of land and a swimming pool.

Days until the 2016 election: 4.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Tim Cook (56) Palo Alto, CA.; Matthew McConaughey (47) Austin, TX.;  Jane Pauley (66) Darien, CT.; Dan Rather (85) Irvine, TX.

HALLOWEEN STRATEGY - A Halloween strategy is an investment technique in which an investor sells stocks before May 1 and refrains from reinvesting in the stock market until October 31, in order to increase capital gains. The Halloween strategy is based on the premise that most capital gains are made between October 31 (Halloween) and May 1, and that the other six months of the year should be spent investing in other investment types or not at all.

The Halloween strategy is closely-related to the phrase, "Sell in May and then walk away," referring to the six months between May 1 and October 31. This strategy is heavily based on the concept of seasonality, specifically that stocks perform better in the winter months than they do in the summer months. This strategy is contrary to the buy-and-hold strategy, in which an investor may ride out down months.

WELLS SETTLES FOR $50M - Wells Fargo & Co has agreed to pay $50 million to settle a racketeering lawsuit accusing it of overcharging hundreds of thousands of homeowners for appraisals ordered after they defaulted on their mortgage loans.

The proposed settlement, which requires court approval, was disclosed in a filing last Friday in an Oakland, California federal court. If approved, it will resolve nationwide claims that Wells Fargo charged much more than it paid for third-party appraisals, exploiting borrowers who could least afford it and driving them further into default.

LOAN ARRANGERS - Banks no longer reign over the mortgage market. They accounted for less than half of the mortgage dollars extended to borrowers during the third quarter. Taking their place are nonbank lenders more willing to make riskier loans that banks now shun, giving rise to potential new dangers. Independent mortgage lenders have come close to the 50% mark before, but they haven’t topped it in recent history, making this a notable moment for the most important consumer-credit market. Banks also remain fearful of legal and regulatory threats that have cost them tens of billions of dollars in mortgage-related fines and settlements in recent years. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve decided on Wednesday to leave short-term interest rates unchanged while sending new signals that they could move at their meeting next month.

TESLA IN THE BLACK - Tesla Motors Inc. posted a surprise $22 million profit in its latest period, buoyed by record sales of its pricey electric cars and boosting Chief Executive Elon Musk's plan to sharply lift output ahead of its release of a sedan to compete against mass-market rivals. The Palo Alto, Calif., company reported its first profit after 12 quarterly losses amid a push to generate cash for building its $35,000 Model 3. The company has pledged to lift annual production to 500,000 cars in 2018, from about 50,000 last year. The quarter's profit-a record and only the second time ever-was driven higher by improved sales of the Model S sedan and Model X sport-utility vehicle, a reduction in spending and a boost from selling pollution tax credits to other auto makers. Gross profit from the credits soared to $139 million from $39 million a year ago. Tesla's shares rose 5% on the news.

GOOD READ – "The Mastermind," by Wright Thompson in ESPN The Magazine: "Theo Epstein walks to and from Wrigley, eats lunch in the empty bleachers and wants Chicago to see the ivy turn red in October. The Cubs president may be nearing middle age, but his love of the game is shining through more than ever."

THE CUBS WIN! -- Chicago Tribune front page: "AT LAST!"

NFL GAME OF THE WEEK – Sunday 11/6, 5:30 PM ET, NBC; Denver Broncos (6-2) vs. Oakland Raiders (6-2), first place is on the line in the AFC West. Raiders win 20 – 17.  Season to date (7-1)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 11/5, 8:00 PM ET, ABC; #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0) at #13 LSU Tigers (5-2). Bama is too good, 28 – 20.  Season to date (8-1)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 11/5, 1:00 PM ET, HGTV: Hobart Statesmen (7-1) vs. #16 St. Lawrence University Saints (8-0). Can the perfect season continue? Hobart will be tough, but the Saints prevail 32 – 27.  Season to date (6-3)

COLLEGE HOCKEY PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 11/5, 7:00 PM CT, FCS: #1 Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (5-1-2) at #8 St. Cloud State Huskies (4-2-0), big early season NCHC league game, Huskies win 4 – 3.  Season to date (1-3)


(Breeder’s Cup, Nov. 4-5) A Sawbuck on each race to Win:

Dirt Mile – Dortmund; Jockey – Garcia, Trainer – Baffert

Distaff – Stellar Wind; Jockey – Espinoza, Trainer – Sadler

Juvenile – Not This Time; Jockey – Albarado, Trainer – Romans

Classic – California Chrome; Jockey – Espinoza, Trainer - Sherman

(NFL, Nov. 6) Detroit Lions (4-4) at Minnesota Vikings (5-2), Vikings are ripe for an upset, go Lions, they win 24 – 21.

(NCAA SCIAC, Nov. 5) Pomona-Pitzer College Endowments (5-2) at University of La Verne Leopards (1-6). There is magic left for the Leos, 32 – 28.

(NHL, Nov. 5) New York Rangers (8-3-0) at Boston Bruins (6-4-0), Rangers are on a roll, 2 – 1 win over the B’s.

Season to date (90 - 78)

MARKET WEEK - Wells Fargo (WFC) has increased its litigation loss reserves to $1.7 billion from $1 billion, according to a filing. Wells Fargo has confirmed reports the SEC has joined those looking into the recent disclosure and revamping of the bank's sales practices.

Despite beating estimates with quarterly results, Facebook (FB) was getting slammed in the premarket, after warning ad revenue growth rates would slow "meaningfully" next year as the social network maxes out the number of ads without damaging the user experience.

Fitbit (FIT) was losing about a third of its value in premarket trading, after revenue as well as fourth-quarter and full-year outlook fell short of estimates. The stock has fallen more than 55 percent since its June 2015 IPO, which was priced at $20 per share.

Whole Foods Market (WFM) beat estimates on earnings and matched on revenue. Meanwhile, the organic grocer named co-founder John Mackey as its sole CEO. Mackey and Walter Robb were co-CEOs. Robb will remain on the board and serve as a senior advisor.

Ford (F) has launched Black Friday clearance sales early, following a nearly 12 percent drop in October sales. Ford is offering $1,000 rebates on 2016 and 2017 models. Last year, Black Friday deals from several automakers made for a strong November.

The Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against AT&T's (T) DirecTV, alleging the satellite television service engaged in unlawful information sharing with rival pay-TV operators during negotiations over whether to carry a Dodgers-owned channel, SportsNet LA.

Next week: Dear Rink Rats.

Until Next Time, Adios.

Claremont, CA

November 4, 2016


CARTOON OF THE WEEK – The New Yorker, “Meetings”

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