Think you can Multi-Task? Think again...
Updated: Sep 8
The Multitasking Myth
Multitasking is exactly what it sounds like – trying to do more than one thing at a time. Many of us multitask throughout our day – listening to a colleague while checking email, working on a document while talking on the phone. We may think we're multi-tasking, but think again...
But, according to many studies, and this article in psychologytoday.com, people can't really multi-task. We can take on multiple tasks and appear to be doing them at the same time. For example, have you been on a conference call lately and when someone asks a specific question, you hear the recipient say, "I'm sorry, can you repeat the question?" That is proof enough to me showing that people cannot truly multi-task. Disruptions never help anyone - especially since we're all working on conference calls these days with the COVID isolation.
We have the idea that we get more done when we multitask or that this is the best way to maximize our time. However, studies show that 30-40% more time is spent when you "multi-task" rather than when you mono-task (work on one thing at a time). Multitasking also means your attention is divided, which can lead to miscommunication and errors - think about my conference call example above.
Today, we have so many distractions because our entire family is working or schooling from home. We also may have pets which don't understand you need them to be quiet while on conference calls or just need quiet time to get projects done. Give yourself a break and stop trying to multi-task. You truly will be more productive and you may save a brain cell or two.
It can be difficult to break the multitasking habit, but it is key in order to be the best we can be.
Here are 5 ideas on how to mono-task while ensuring that everything gets done.
Schedule all tasks - place every to do item on your Calendar for an allotted amount of time. Especially today, with our COVID new normal - schedule a break for a snack or lunch, get away from your computer and enjoy a few minutes with your family, kids, or pets. Get outside and get some fresh air - even in some colder climates, this will still give you more energy. Whatever task it is, work or personal, schedule time for it!
Do NOT Socialize on Social Media - if you truly are working on your priorities, social media will only be a distraction. Now, I'm not saying do not ever get onto social media, but if you must get onto it, make it outside of working and school hours and schedule specific time - you can find yourself lost in a rabbit hole - turn on a timer if that helps you remember how much time you gave yourself.
Be prepared - schedule time on your calendar either at the end of each day or the beginning of each day to prepare for everything you have scheduled the next day. If you don't place this time on your calendar, you will tend to forget. Anything that you didn't get done in the current day needs to be rescheduled. Follow up on any meetings and schedule time to put together notes and follow up emails. Anything you can do to prepare will only help make you more productive moving forward.
Do NOT Check Email constantly - this is a big one that I've seen has helped me become more productive. There are so many emails that come into my Inbox on a daily basis - and since I work with people all around the globe, I can have anywhere between 30-50 new emails when I open my email first thing in the morning. It is another rabbit hole that almost always becomes a total distraction - so many times emails are not urgent and are only informational that they can wait. Depending on the number of emails you get in a day, schedule time on your calendar specifically for emails.
Keep your Vision and Goals in mind - this all comes back to prioritizing tasks that will help you ultimately reach your goals. If you are doing things that are not on track with your job, your family, and your life's goals, then you need to find a way to delete or delegate those tasks.
Focus on at least one of these things and you will see an improvement in your productivity.
And, again, don't try to be a super-hero and multi-task because we've proven it is not possible. Give yourself a break and allow yourself to be "in the moment" with each and every task. Be purposeful and it will become so much easier to reach your vision and goals.
If you're interested in learning more on Outlook, CLICK HERE to download my FREE Outlook Time Management Mini-course.