Are you proud of your multitasking abilities? Do you strive to be productive every minute of the day by shifting back and forth between tasks?
Unfortunately your dedication to doing two or maybe three things at once is not helping your productivity. In fact, it may be hurting it. In “How the Multitasking Myth Is Hurting You,” Small Business Trends refers to a Stanford University Study entitled Cognitive control in media multitaskers, which concluded that multitasking is not only a challenge for us; it degrades our performance.
That’s because we all depend on three key abilities to consume more than one input stream at a time: filtering (such as filtering out noise), memory management and task switching. As Small Business Trends points out, “…many people have problems with one or more of these abilities, chronic multitaskers are bad at all three and they are worse at each of them than the average person.”
The fact is that your brain is not truly capable of multitasking, says John Medina, author of Brain Rules. It focuses on one concept at a time or sequentially. As you move your focus from one thing to another, your brain has to shift focus; it can’t process both things.
Mobile devices encourage multitasking
Today’s mobile devices make connecting with each other and the workplace easy and convenient. I don’t think any of us could live without them. However, they also contribute to the tendency and ease of multitasking. While you are working on a document or spreadsheet for your small business are you also responding to emails every time you get a notification? How about browsing the web on your tablet when you’re in a meeting or reading emails on your smartphone when you’re supposed to watching your kid’s softball game? Sound familiar? At its worse, multitasking may actually keep you from completing a project.
Kick the multitasking habit
Make a to-do list: Every day make a list of what you need to do and prioritize the items in order of importance. If you find yourself running out of time as you get through your list, move some of the less important items to another day.
Don’t do it all yourself: Learn to be a better delegator. Get over the notion that no one can do the job better than you. Figure out where you need help or what activities you don’t need to handle any longer – anything from taking customer calls to approving copy for a brochure.
Close your browser: There’s too much temptation to check news and social media, so shut down the Internet while you focus on a project. That also means closing any open windows on your computer.
Stop checking email: Turn off your email and IM notifications while you are working on something important. Set specific times during the day to check email – limit the times to five or six, according to the experts.
Shut down your mobile phone: Turn off your cell phone so you are not distracted by calls or texts until you have accomplished what you set out to and can take a break.
Designate blocks of time to complete tasks. If you do, you’ll be able to finish assignments within a designated time frame and not procrastinate or give in to distractions.
Let others know not to disturb you: When you are the office or even if you are working at home, let others around you know when you need interrupted time. Some communications systems even let you set a “do not disturb” indicator.
Shut out noise: If noise is distracting you, put on a headset to block out sounds. Or if you can work with music, find your favorite tunes online.
Remember it’s not about how many things you do at once, but how well you do each one.