The Multitasking Myth & 7 Tips To Help You Focus

Business woman multitasking

We often think that multitasking is the best way to get more done and deal with the constant demands of our working day. It is probably common to find you responding to emails while on the phone and drinking your morning coffee.  How many documents or tabs have you got open on your computer right now? Email, internet browser, word document, an excel spreadsheet? The reality is however that constantly dividing our attention across multiple activities does not make us more productive.

If you are jumping from one task to the next it may feel like you are busy but it is unlikely that you are truly productive.  To be truly productive we need to focus our attention. Something that is far more challenging in the technology driven workplace of today. Today we are always ‘on’ and constantly connected. We have emails, facebook, twitter, mobile phones and we are continually paying attention in order not to miss anything. 

Research shows that if we try to engage in many activities at once, we perform more slowly and less accurately, resulting in lower levels of productivity. When we are constantly switching tasks, our mind is forced to continuously reorient in order to process the new information. The quality of our work suffers when we force our mind to do this hurriedly and regularly especially between complex tasks. The other effect multitasking has is on our stress levels. You know the frazzled feeling you have when you have too many things on the go at one time and you begin to feel overwhelmed and defeated.

Multitasking isn’t always a conscious action. Often we are dividing our attention between tasks without even been fully aware of it. Do you decrease your productivity by multitasking?

Have a look at your desk. How many files, papers, and lists do you have in front of you? How much of it are you currently working on?

Have a look at your computer. Do you have several internet tabs open? Are you paying your phone bill, reading this blog and tweeting? Do you have your email open all of the time?

We often multitask when we are working on a task we don’t enjoy. How often do you check your email when you are completing a difficult or tedious task?

Do you experience regular interruptions? Regular interruptions cause us to multitask. In an effort to get our work done, we will attempt to continue even when interrupted.

Tips for Mono Tasking

  • Isolate yourself

Try to work without any distractions for a few hours. This means turning off your phone, closing your email and finding a quiet room in order to prevent distractions.

  • Make Meetings Technology Free

Create a rule that there are no mobile phones or tablets in meetings. Without the constant distractions and everyone’s full attention then meetings focused, to the point and as a result shorter. 

  • Chunk Your Time

Plan your day in blocks of time. Focusing on completing one task at a time, or working on similar tasks together. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, doing research, attending meetings.

  • Turn off Email Alerts

If you receive an alert when emails come in, turn it off. This will help you avoid the temptation to check your inbox as soon as you get new mail. If you are tempted to check your email when you’re supposed to be working on another task, stop, take a deep breath and resist the urge. Try to focus your attention back to the job at hand.

  • Keep your Desk Clear

Only have on your desk what you are working on right now. This way you can’t be distracted by other tasks and be tempted to move away from what you are doing.

  • Take a Timeout

If you have that frazzled overwhelmed feeling and you find you are multitasking, stop and take a timeout. Take a few minutes to just stop and refocus your mind.

  • Write a List of Tasks

If you are in the habit of stopping what you are doing every time you have a new idea or a new item to action arrives in your inbox, create a list instead and write the task down. Return to your original job and work your way through the list focusing on one task at a time.

How have you managed to curb your multitasking?

Meaghan Marshall is the founder of Meaghan Marshall Career Services. Meaghan is passionate about helping others achieve their career goals and find fulfilment at work. For more tips and career inspiration follow Meaghan on twitter.

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