A study was just released that talks about the benefits of storing or saving information in a tangible way, such as saving information to a hard drive.
The idea is pretty simple: Saving acts as a form of offloading. By ensuring that certain information will be digitally accessible, we can re-allocate cognitive resources away from maintaining that information and focus instead on remembering new information.
This is fascinating to me in that it validates a concept I’ve been using for over a decade to stay organized. I learned about it from David Allen’s popular productivity and organization system called Getting Things Done (GTD).
Whenever prodded to summarize the system in a single sentence, I give the following:
It’s the concept that having many open tasks floating around in your mind is detrimental to productivity, so the system works by having you capture your activities and new tasks in a formal and consistent way.
Whether you use a group of notecards or a digital system, the key is to never try to store things in your mind when they come into you. The teaching, which I’ve found to be true with over 10 years of using the note card system, is that the brain does not allow one to work on any particular task while it’s attempting to remember some arbitrary number of other things you’ve been asked to do or remember.
So the idea is to capture or discard any new input the moment it happens so that your mind is never burdened with the overhead of trying to manage it, which will allow you to efficiently execute on the task you are actively working on.
I think this study touches on much of the same thing. It’s about unburdening the finite resource of attention so as to become more effective.