If you want to do better and feel better you should slow down and stop multitasking. That’s right. If you can wrestle control of your life back from the clutches of your cell phone and computer screen, you’ll have a fuller life and do better on the job to boot.
This might seem counter intuitive to you. After all, if it’s good to get one thing done in an hour, it must be great to get 3 things done in an hour. Right? Well….if you actually could get things done faster it would indeed be great. The truth is you can’t.
According to communications professor Clifford Nass, of Stanford University, when you go from one computer-related task to another without completing the first task it dulls your brain. In fact, hard-core multitaskers generally do whatever they do worse than serial tasters. And it gets worse.
The professor found that people who try to do more than one thing at a time find it hard to separate out important from unimportant information. They also have trouble switching gears and “going with the flow”.
The solution is easy – do one thing at a time. For example, check your email twice a day and don’t leave that screen until your inbox is empty. Sadly this is far easier said than done. At least that’s what I’ve found. I struggle with multitasking blight as well. Over time, I realized how unproductive this was. Slowly, I learned to unplug. I discovered that I don’t have to respond to every call or email real time. And I learned that by sticking to one task at a time, I’d be much more successful, stress-free and more fun to be around. Here’s how I did it:
I am a huge fan of having a daily “to do” list with no more than 5 items on it. And everyone I know who uses a list to organize their day is happy they do so. This became super productive for me when I started doing the least attractive task first. By doing so, I got good traction when I had the most energy and I got a win early in the day. Also, everything else seemed much easier to knock off. Score!
2. Reality Time
I realized that much of my “multitasking” was really task avoidance. My hunch is that we “multitask” when we are bored but want to look busy.
How did I cure this malady? I acknowledge that there will be times during the day when I will get bored. This happens to everyone. But I also acknowledge that I have to get the job done sooner or later and that I’ll get it done better and faster if I just stick with it. That mind-set helped a lot. I rarely waste time anymore.
3. Get Up
Sometimes, our bodies just need to move around. I often get up from my desk and just walk around the office for 5 or 10 minutes. This clears my head. I also exercise 3 or 4 times a week and this is a great help too. Try it. You’ll like it.
4. Get Down
Sometimes I get tired at work. At that point, I’m no good to anyone. When that happens, I take a little 20 minute siesta. When I wake up, I feel like a brand new Pilgrim. It’s super easy to remain laser focused and I’m ready to take on whatever the world has in store.
We are only human. That means we really can’t do more than one thing at a time if we want to do it well. Acknowledge this and use it to your advantage. Slow down. Unplug. Do one thing at a time. Say “no” to interruptions. Don’t answer every call or email immediately. The world won’t stop turning. And you’ll be amazed at how much faster you get work done well.
Do you multitask? Is it effective for you? If so, how do you pull it off?