The job of traffic policemen isn’t easy. Not only do they need to be patient but also extremely mindful and conscious of their surroundings at all times. They need to pay attention to vehicular movement from multiple directions at the same time to successfully manage the frenzy that is Indian traffic. 

Indian traffic policemen can deal with even the busiest roads because of what is termed as divided attention. Read on to understand the scope and definition of divided attention in everyday life and how it helps us multitask and navigate difficult situations.

Unraveling The Divided Attention Psychology

Most of us lead busy and fast-paced lives, making multitasking the only way to cope with our hectic schedules. Whether it’s work or at home, catching a break isn’t easy. Even when watching Netflix, we can’t stop scrolling our phone screens. The ability to balance so many activities at the same time is possible because of the divided attention psychology.

To put it briefly, divided attention refers to the brain’s ability to focus or perform two or more tasks at the same time. It is like simultaneously paying attention to different tasks. This ability is exhibited in our everyday lives, more often than we realize. This makes us more efficient as we’re able to do more in less time.

Here are some common and everyday examples of divided attention:

  • A restaurant attendant has to take and remember different orders from multiple tables and communicate them with the chef

  • Most cab drivers like to strike up conversations or engage in small talk. They drive, focus on the road as well as talk to passengers at the same time

  • A teacher needs to educate, train and connect with a classroom full of students

Divided attention has become an inevitable aspect of our professional lives, where we’re bound to juggle multiple tasks to meet all the demands. Let’s look at some examples of divided attention at the workplace:

  • Responding to emails during a meeting that has run unexpectedly long

  • Working on one project and simultaneously starting on another to meet deadlines

  • Speaking to clients or customers on the phone and entering their details in your system

Is Divided Attention Good For Us?

Divided attention has been a key topic of research in cognitive psychology. At its core, divided attention in psychology is our ability to multitask and it’s both a boon and a bane. Let’s explore the two sides of the divided attention theory and see how it’s advantageous and disadvantageous at the same time:

When it’s a boon

  • We can finish simple and everyday tasks in less time (for example, clean the house while cooking something)

  • It helps break the monotony as we can switch between tasks we like and focus on something else if we get bored

  • It helps us stay flexible and adapt to fast-paced lifestyles; adaptability is a core requirement for most modern organizations

When it’s a bane

  • Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is counterproductive, reducing efficiency and slowing down progress

  • As you focus on meeting multiple objectives, you tend to stress more, eventually tiring yourself out

  • You may feel busy when multitasking but you’re probably just overwhelmed by multiple activities

Divided Attention For The Win!

Divided attention may have its limitations but it can also be used to our advantage. You can train your mind to find effective ways to split up tasks and organize them in ways that help you to utilize your resources efficiently. Here are some powerful tips to improve your divided attention abilities:

  1. Plan Your Day

You need to prioritize your activities to fulfill your targets effectively. One useful way to do this is by planning and organizing your day in advance. You can use to-do lists, organizers or calendars to split up your activities.

  1. Minimize Distractions

Since you’re already juggling multiple tasks, you should make sure that there are minimal distractions at the workplace. For example, you can’t work on multiple projects if you’re constantly interrupted by emails and phone calls.

  1. Practice Mindfulness

A great way to sharpen your cognitive abilities is to meditate or practice relaxation activities. Not only does it improve your concentration power, but it also makes space for new information. You’re able to pay attention to details when you practice mindfulness.

If you want to utilize your divided attention abilities, you need to be aware of your environment. To effectively perceive, respond and interact with your immediate surroundings, look into Harappa Education’s Listening Actively course. The HARP (Hearing, Attention, Response and Perception) Equation will teach you everything about perceiving and paying attention to details. Even the smallest act can make the biggest difference! 


Explore topics such as Types of Attention, How to Improve Your Attention SpanActive Listening, What Is Selective Attention & Sustained Attention from Harappa Diaries and learn to effectively perceive, respond and interact with others.

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