(v) Screwing up several things at once.
In today’s age of technology, we are bombarded with information and demand for our time on every step we take. We are working on two projects at once, while talking on the phone, browsing social media, and responding to emails. Boss is coming with one more demand, colleague is asking for help with the printer, another one is shouting from cubicle that new order is ready. The world around us is crazy while we try to stay sane.
As we drive home, instead of focusing on the road, we’re changing stations, talking on the phone, checking how we look in the mirror, etc. Then, when we finally arrive home, thousands of little tasks await us – lunch, kids, pets, new movies or TV shows, cleaning, friends…
Sounds familiar? This is the daily life of most people. No wonder we experience burnout from time to time. Our mind is 50,000 year-old-hardware not capable to follow the demands we place on it. Neither our brains nor our bodies have significantly evolved since 50,000 years ago.
One can make an argument that recent generations have grown up in a new era of technology, but that doesn’t mean that suddenly our brains have more storage or better memory to handle all that information and tasks at once. If we overload our old hardware, we will freeze up just like old computers.
If the above example is not enough, here are 7 scientific facts to make you stop multitasking.
Multitasking serves no one, neither you nor your boss.
So, the question then is: How do we make a slow computer (our brain) work properly?
Since our minds won’t change, we need to get rid of the extra load that isn’t needed. Rather than adding more and more tasks to our daily to-do lists, it’s time to simplify and start focusing on one thing at a time. It’s time to single-task.
First thing in the morning, focus on your MIT – Most Important Task. Don’t do anything else until you finish it. Don’t check your e-mail, don’t schedule calls or meetings before you’re done with the most important thing for the day. Focus only on one thing in front of you until it’s over. Give yourself a short break, and then focus on the second or third important task.
Pro tip: find a quiet place to do your Most Important Task, or do it when everyone else is asleep.
Turn off your phone and Internet if possible. Don’t answer emails, messages, or calls. Tell colleagues, family, and friends that you’re unavailable for a certain period of time. Turn off all notifications. Lock your door. Clear your desk and desktop. Guard your time. Focus only on one thing.
Be very careful with this one and use it only if you’re strong-minded enough not to let it distract you. There are countless amazing apps like Forest, RescueTime, SelfControl, Pomodoro technique, AdBlock, basic timers and countdowns, etc. Use them to your own advantage.
Sometimes you may find yourself multitasking because you took on a task you don’t really have time for. Learn to say No in a polite way. You can say “Let me think about it”, or “I’ll let you know later”, so you have enough time to finish the task at hand and then evaluate whether what the other person is asking of you is more important than your own tasks.
No one can be laser-focused all day, not even Superman. Set a specific time in the day to check emails, social media, text messages, or YouTube. It can be your lunch break or a short period of time before you leave the office. If you use the Pomodoro technique (time management method that uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks), you can use those short breaks for distractions.
Things send us silent messages. Stop them from doing it, by keeping your workspace minimal, without distractions. Only keep the project you’re currently working on in front of you. The tools needed to work, are the only ones that can be next to you.
Be present and mindful while working on your most important task, project, or while spending time with your family. Don’t do anything else. If you’re writing an email, focus on the email. When talking to a colleague, focus on the colleague. When in a meeting, focus on the speaker. When you’re with your kid, focus only on the kid.
Give your undivided attention to everything and everyone. People will like you more, you will accomplish more, and you will know how to value your time better.
Focusing only on a given task can be difficult, but the benefits of the amount of work you will get done, and the quality of it, are worth it. You will also be less tired and more content with yourself at the end of the day.
Don’t let multitasking distract you by following the above 7 steps and take back control of your day.
P.S.: sometimes there will be an interruption so urgent that you cannot postpone it until you’re done with the task at hand. Then, and only then, stop with the task at hand, make a note where you are (write it or take a mental note if you don’t have time), put the whole project in a drawer, or close the window if you’re using a computer, and go to the urgent task. When you finish with the urgent task, return to the first task, look at the notes where you left off, and focus again.
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