Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pardon My Needles

My project bag, stuck in the side of my purse
 Two things go with me every time I carry my purse anywhere. (Well, four if you count my eternal optimism and cheerful attitude. Hahahahaha! Ahem.)

I never leave the house without my iPhone and my knitting. The iPhone is self-explanatory, but the knitting, I'm sure, makes me look like a self-absorbed non-payer-of-attention to those who are attending meetings, classes, lectures, or other high-attention events. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

When I knit, I concentrate. When I don't, I wool-gather. I've known that about myself for a long time, but it wasn't until recently that I discovered science agrees with me: When I knit I'm improving my cognitive load.

I know! It sounds like a real thing! And according to Wired, it is. The linked article talks about doodling, but the principal is the same as my self-observed reaction to knitting.

In case you don't want to jump to the link, Wired Science says that people doodle in meetings because a human mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. If the meeting strays from riveting topics (say, vacation plans) into less riveting topics (say, process management mapping) some minds may tend to wander. But a mind has limited space to devote to paying attention, and if the mind wanders from the assigned topic at hand (process management mapping) to the more scintillating topics (Hey, I wonder if that beach house in Costa Rica is still available?) the woolgathering will block out the topic that one is being paid to pay attention to, leading to puzzled expressions when the boss asks how the process management mapping is going. That is not a recipe for positive performance reviews and career longevity. So we doodle, because doodling is mindless but distracts us from Costa Rica long enough to focus on process management.

Thanks to my mother's patient tutelage, I can draw a duck. That is all I can draw. Ducks, drawn endlessly, are pretty boring. So when I discovered that knitting has the same mind-focusing effect, I stuck a little bag in my purse with a project that by my estimation will take me 540 hours to complete. (I'm not exaggerating--I've done the math.)

See these little honeycombs? I need to make 720 of them.
I began knitting during phone conferences, behind closed doors, when my wandering mind is the most peripatetic. Then I dared to pull the project bag out during church business meetings. Now I don't hesitate to cast on a few stitches any time I'm required to listen without participating for any length of time.

Some who don't know my motivation might think I'm being disrespectful of the speaker, and for this reason I don't knit during a sermon, or a trustee meeting, or any time my motives might be misconstrued as boredom. In fact, the opposite is true. 

So if you're leading a meeting, and you notice my knitting needles in action, it's because I think what you're saying is important and I don't want to miss it -- I'm a better participant when I'm stitching the wool than when I'm gathering the wool. Science says so.


1 comment:

  1. I'm the same way! I always have a purse project going, usually socks, and as soon as I finish one I have to cast on the next one, because I can't go out without knitting! What if I have to wait?

    I just started a new job, so I need to sound out my boss about knitting in meetings. Thus far I don't have to go to many, so it's not a big issue, but I focus better without empty hands.