Multitasking? Just stop. It makes you tired

Multitasking makes you tired so, in the end, you end do less.

When we attempt to multitask, we don’t actually do more than one activity at once, but quickly switch between them. And this switching is exhausting. It uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, running down the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task.

“That switching comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing,” says Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University. “People eat more, they take more caffeine. Often what you really need in that moment isn’t caffeine, but just a break. If you aren’t taking regular breaks every couple of hours, your brain won’t benefit from that extra cup of coffee.”

This is one of the reasons I don’t ask job applicants if they can “multitask,” and one of the reasons I’m suspicious of people who claim they can.

Quartz: Neuroscientists say multitasking literally drains the energy reserves of your brain

Local zoning a drag on the economy, promoter of inequality?

Fascinating piece in the New York Times about how local zoning and development regulations that are “anti-growth” may, in fact, be slowing economic growth as much as $1.5 trillion per year.

Essentially, in fast-growing communities where there are more jobs and more higher paying jobs, local development rules make it difficult or impossible for low-income people to afford to live there. As a result, those people don’t move to areas with more, higher-paying jobs — which is what you would expect them to do in a free market where people make rational economic choices.

But a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment, when multiplied across countless unheralded local development battles, is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy.

It has even to some extent changed how Americans of different incomes view opportunity. Unlike past decades, when people of different socioeconomic backgrounds tended to move to similar areas, today, less-skilled workers often go where jobs are scarcer but housing is cheap, instead of heading to places with the most promising job opportunities, according to research by Daniel Shoag, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and Peter Ganong, also of Harvard.

One reason they’re not migrating to places with better job prospects is that rich cities like San Francisco and Seattle have gotten so expensive that working-class people cannot afford to move there. Even if they could, there would not be much point, since whatever they gained in pay would be swallowed up by rent.

The story spotlights Boulder, Colo., as one example of this, and mentions San Francisco as another. Here in North Carolina, it seems we’ve seen this same dynamic in Chapel Hill and perhaps other parts of the Research Triangle region.

Certainly makes it worth reconsidering how we handle local development ordinances.

NY Times: How Anti-Growth Sentiment, Reflected in Zoning Laws, Thwarts Equality

What are you feeding your kids for breakfast?

From the New York Times’ Well blog:

With Cheerios and other processed cereals, “you basically have rapidly digested sugar mixed with bran and germ,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “It provides fiber and minerals, but also digests in the mouth almost immediately.”

That gives you a quick spike in blood sugar, but no energy for later.

Basically, if you’re going to eat (or feed to your kids) processed cereals, you should add fiber and fat to slow down the digestion of those carbohydrates so they’ll have enough energy later on.

Ask Well: Choosing the Right Grain for Your Morning

The roots of the European/Middle Eastern migration crisis

Interesting essay by Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal today. In places his analysis strikes me as a bit too simplistic, but I’m not an expert in the field. It’s certainly worth reading if you’re wondering about the historical roots of the current refugee crisis in Europe.

What we are witnessing today is a crisis of two civilizations: The Middle East and Europe are both facing deep cultural and political problems that they cannot solve. The intersection of their failures and shortcomings has made this crisis much more destructive and dangerous than it needed to be—and carries with it the risk of more instability and more war in a widening spiral.

WSJ: The Roots of the Migration Crisis