# Only one type of attention can be given to one thing at one time
Humans are constrained by biological limits, and we are also limited to how we can use our attention:
- We can only give our attention to one thing at a time
- We can only utilise one of our many kinds of attention at one time
Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes (p. 58).
Multitasking is not what we think it is. It is not focusing attention on more than one thing at a time. Nobody can do that. When we think we multitask, what we really do is shift our attention quickly between two (or more) things. And every shift is a drain on our ability to shift and delays the moment we manage to get focused again.
All these are not just different tasks, but tasks requiring a different kind of attention. It is not only impossible to focus on more than one thing at a time, but also to have a different kind of attention on more than one thing at a time.
- Zettelkasten splits tasks to use different attention types
- The process of writing consists of various different kind of activities. These activities needs their own type of attention. Researching for materials, for example, requires a different kind of attention than proofreading. Researching or connecting ideas will require us to be more playful, while proofreading or copy-editing will require us to be more analytical. We can't seem to be able to be playful and analytical at the same time (Only one type of attention can be given to one thing at one time). The switch from one attention to another is easier when you have a well-defined workflow. Zettelkasten embodies this workflow and make sure that the tasks are split to use both kind of attentions (Effective workflow should break tasks down by attention types).
- Multitasking is an impossible task
- Not only we can only pay attention to one task at a time, we can also only utilise one of our many types of attention at one time (Only one type of attention can be given to one thing at one time). These two limitations render multitasking as an impossible task.
- Effective workflow should break tasks down by attention types
- Effective tool circumvents human limits, therefore we have to understand what limit we are faced with if we want to make a workflow more effective. Especially in a creative work, Only one type of attention can be given to one thing at one time. Given the limit of attention we have, an effective workflow should break task down into smaller chunks by different attention types.
- Web usability is achieved by designing for the intended attention types
- Only one type of attention can be given to one thing at one time, and this is a constraint that should be considered to make usable websites.