door of the restaurant, the backpack by the door with no owner, the man sitting in a parked car for hours.
This is called “situational awareness” and it is much different than multitasking. Situational awareness involves being attentive to what’s happening around us in order to understand how “things” in the
immediate environment—information, events, and one’s own actions—will or might impact us. Inadequate situational awareness is a primary factor in accidents attributed to human error.
Situational awareness is especially important when information flow is unusually high, such as a loud movie theatre or outdoor concert. I remember cleaning and reassembling an M16 rifle while a drill
sergeant shouted out orders. It was exceedingly hard because the brain said multitask: pay attention to the authority figure and rebuild the rifle. Of course the sergeant was performing a service, in a way, teaching what combat might be like when fear combines with a thousand extraneous inputs, any one of which might lead to death. What we eventually learned was that only through extreme concentration could we assemble our M16. We learned, in other words, to drop the drill sergeant into the background, to be aware but only to focus on reassembling the rifle. We learned situational awareness and we got the job
Only one thing can truly occupy your mind at any given time. In a fast food restaurant you try to eat the burger without letting the tomato squeeze out and onto our shirt and pants, all while fetching extra ketchup for the kids and talking to the spouse.
If you remain situational aware you have a chance to respond effectively. One who is multitasking—talking
to a spouse, fetching the ketchup, and fiddling with a cell phone, not a chance.
When you carry, you have a responsibility to focus, to stop believing that you can multitask and to remain situational aware. Put the cell phone away!