Think you’re good at multitasking? Think again!
Most people feel that they have so much to accomplish there simply never seems to be enough time in the day. So, how do we typically handle that? Trying to do 8 things at once (AKA Multitasking).
I’ve heard many leaders tell me how great they are at multitasking. They’re convinced that this is the only way to accomplish all their myriad demands in the span of the workday. The thing is, I coach leaders on this type of behavior all the time.
I’ve even heard job applicants brag that one of their strengths is multitasking.
The reality is, we don’t multitask very well.
Research on divided attention shows that it’s not technically possible to do more than one thing at a time and get great results but we continue to try.
Here’s an example conversation that might sound like some of yours.
I’m sitting at my desk working when the phone rings. I answer the call (it’s my husband). I keep typing in the document I’m working on while we chat. Our conversation goes something like this:
Him: “I was wondering if you could…..”
Me: “Sure. I can do that.” “How was the…?” He answers. I don’t really hear all of what he says. I ask him about the first thing again.
Him: “What are you doing?”
Me (defensively): “Nothing! I’m listening.” But I’m not. Not well anyway.
Take a moment to think about all of the things that you’re doing right now (besides reading this article). Chances are high that there are other tasks you’re working on concurrently.
What you’re calling multitasking is really task-switching. The shock: Research shows us we’re not that good at task-switching and it doesn’t help as much as you might think!
Read on to examine your own habits and learn how to get more done with better results!
Here are a few facts about Multitasking that might surprise you:
• Multitasking doesn’t save time.
In fact, it can reduce productivity by about40% according to some research studies. When you switch from task to task you lose time. It actually takes longer to do two tasks simultaneously than it does when you focus on one and finish it before moving on to the next.
• Multitasking causes more errors in work.
Because your attention is divided, it can cause you to miss critical information or lose track of where you were when you last focused on that item.
• Your memory can suffer.
As you try to switch from task to task because you can’t remember the details of the first (this is especially true as we age), this can impair your retention of fine details.
• It can negatively affect relationships, both at work and in your personal life.
When an employee comes to talk to you, imagine how devalued they might feel when you don’t make eye contact or turn away from your computer to speak with them.
• Multitasking can cause greater stress.
hen you’re constantly working at a feverish pace, and stay connected to your phone/email even from home this can cause you to feel overwhelmed and burned out.
If you’re feeling sufficiently convinced that multitasking does more harm than good and you’re ready to make some changes, here are 5 things you can try right away!
1) Remove distractions
It can be difficult to engage in tasks and conversations when our offices are cluttered. Removing visual clutter can help you focus just on one task at a time.
Similarly, choosing turn off your phone(s) and computer monitors when having conversations with others will not only help you give them your full attention and demonstrate respect but will also allow you hear more the first time so you can guide next steps.
2) Schedule critical work according to when you’re most productive
You know whether you’re a morning person or a night owl. Schedule the items that take the most concentration when you’re at your best in terms of energy and attention. You’ll find that you can knock out those projects quickly and save other items for later.
3) Make sure you only handle tasks once
Some research shows that we go back to tasks multiple times (up to 6 or more) instead of sticking with it and seeing the work through to completion. When you work on one thing before moving to the next, you get better (and faster) results!
4) Batch similar tasks
Many leaders that I work with complain about the inordinate number of emails they receive every day. It can become overwhelming to try to respond immediately while working or attending meetings.
Instead, try batching all of your email reading/responding into one time slot at a specific time of day. You can do the same with other groups of tasks like payroll and returning phone calls. Scheduling this time will help you feel more in control of your day and stay focused knowing you can set things aside until the appointed time.
5) Give yourself a break
During the day, take breaks to eat meals, stretch, and regain energy to tackle that next project.
While it’s tempting to read an email or answer a phone call whenever it pops up, it might be causing you more stress which can affect your health and satisfaction with your work/life balance. Try shutting down earlier in the evening so you can replenish your energy. I promise the world won’t burn down if you miss one message!
The next time you find yourself in a conversation like mine, or you notice you’re working on too many things at once, use some of the tips above to regain focus.
If you’d like to learn how to reduce your stress and work more productively, schedule a Complimentary Discovery Call with me to discuss your current challenges and to get clear on what your next steps may be.
You can also download my free gift, “The Rule-Breaker’s Guide to Managing Your Energy at Work” to begin taking back control of your energy and success!