We all know the challenges of multitasking and yet we cannot help ourselves.
- We continue to:
- Do the dishes while we talk on the phone
- Cook and help kids with their homework
- Exercise while listening to work related audio or carry on a conversation
- Participate in a conference call and take care of some desk work
We are always looking for a way to be more efficient usually by adding more tasks to the one at hand.
How many times have you been helping someone or working with someone on a project when the phone rings or a text message comes through AND you answer/respond? How can you continue to focus on your primary meeting and the secondary call?
What about texting and driving or even phoning and driving?
What about all those projects at home that you are in the middle of completing because you are working on them concurrently?
If that isn’t multitasking what is? What compels us to do this?
- A desire for efficiency?
- A desire to create more time in the day?
- A desire to get ahead?
- A desire to appear competent and productive?
- A desire to always say ‘yes’ and an inability to say ‘no’?
These are all perceptions. Perceptions that you may have about yourself or perceptions that you worry others may have about you. Yet none of it is real.
- The reality is that when you do too many things at once, you cannot focus your attention on any one of them.
- The reality is that it will take you longer to complete each item and thus you will be less efficient.
- The reality is that you will appear to be less competent especially to yourself.
- The reality is that you won’t get ahead.
- The reality is that you will run out of time and with little accomplished. And with the example of driving and texting/calling you may end up in an accident.
Yet many of us continue to multitask adding more items to our ‘to do’ list and trying to fit everything into a finite time period. Why?
- Stop – If you are tempted to carry on two tasks at the same time. Do one first and then go on to the next
- Prioritize – If several things need to get done, determine which is the most important and do it first. Focusing fully on a task will permit you to finish it faster and more thoroughly
- Focus – Have one conversation at a time whether it is in person, on the phone or via the internet or with yourself
- Recognize – When you do overextend yourself forgive yourself and move forward
Say NO – It is okay to say ‘NO’ to others and to yourself. Take on what you think you can handle
When we don’t multitask physically, we find ourselves doing it mentally. Have you ever caught yourself in the shower planning what you need to get done in the office? Or perhaps cook for dinner? A shower can be an extremely relaxing or enervating experience but not if your mind is somewhere else. What about when you are driving? Have you ever been driving and reached your destination without fully recollecting the drive? You may have been thinking through a problem at the office, or trying to sort out some scheduling issues. Your mind was multitasking.
Taking time out to sit down and reflect on ideas or problem solving is not always possible. Many people tell me that they frequently get their best ideas when they are doing something else. While it would be nice to be able to focus only on the task at hand, this is not always feasible. The goal would be to focus your mind as often as possible.
- Lists – It can be helpful to keep a notepad with you so when great ideas come you can make note of them. This can also be kept on a Dictaphone or in a Smartphone.
- Breathe – when you find that your mind is running away from the task at hand, stop and breathe. Remind yourself that you will be able to think about whatever it is in a few minutes when you complete what you are doing.
- Notice – when you find yourself losing track of your thoughts. Do you drive the same way to work each day? Maybe it has become routine and you would benefit from changing the route. You may consider changing your exercise routine so you are not just going through the motions.
- Create – time for yourself to think, problem solve and dream preferably at the start of the day. These moments will help you organize yourself and create a plan.
- Remind – yourself when you start to go off track. The more you notice and shift your focus back to the task at hand, the better you will become at focusing on what is in front of you.
As you focus more on where you are you will find that you are more efficient, productive and competent. And you will enjoy everything or most things that you are doing.