this is a working theory
In 2019, I tried modeling my ability to multitask as having "three slots", of which one of those slots was used for working memory just for moving around and monitoring what I was doing at any given time. The implication was that if I tried to hold MORE than two things in my head, it would overload the system.
I wrote about this in the GHDR 2019 Working Process summary:
[...] I am continuing to model myself as a thinking machine with three attention slots that are loaded weekly. This model has come about from years of self observation, balancing the limits of my working memory with the constant need for variety in my activities. The model applies not just to the number of projects I can handle during the week, but also to prioritizing what will get done, which helps me stay focused.
The three slots are:
- SLOT 1 is a singular focus, the "main thing I want to make progress on", usually something I find very difficult. This is an intentional, planned development process.
- SLOT 2 is a project to give me some relief from the first one that is already on my mind. Making progress here would be a bonus. This is also intentional, but more emergent as solutions to questions are gathered and collected.
- AUX SLOT is for "everyday tasks" like personal hygiene, getting from A to B, and handling any unplanned events.
Each "slot" can be thought of self-contained "mini brain" that can remember a certain amount of context for a longish period of time. Slot 1 is the most powerful one, whereas Slot 2 is somewhat weaker and kicks in when Slot 1 has "overheated" and needs a break. The AUX slot is the one that actually seems to get the most use, oddly enough, because I find staying focused a challenge when the work is meaningless or needlessly mundane.
The Two Slot Model is a way of me accepting that I have certain cognitive limits for doing what I am "supposed to be doing", because I am (1) easily bored and (2) unmotived by uncertain rewards. I need a high level of stimulation to operate. In hindsight, these difficulties may be due to my ADHD and ASD diagnosis.