For years multi-tasking has been regarded as the epitome of good time management – doing two or even three things supposedly at the same time was regarded as surely the ultimate in efficiency and productivity.
As it turns out, not so! The tide has turned on boasting about how adept you are at multi-tasking, nowhere more so than in campaigns against driving while talking on a mobile phone or even texting. It has been demonstrated that in potentially dangerous situations it is vital to be fully aware and paying attention to one task only.
Are you multi-tasking or simply being distracted?
But there is another downside to multi-tasking: Evidence shows that interruptions can cost you as much as 15 minutes to get back on track. You may think that you can browse your Facebook page while waiting for the photocopier to warm up, or talk on the phone while reading through emails, but research shows that this is actually cutting down on your productivity and that you are accomplishing far less rather than more. One study suggests that employees who use a computer at work are distracted as often as once every 10.5 minutes. So-called smart phones can provide even more of a diversion.
What is often regarded as multi-tasking, is actually more accurately described as the brain rapidly switching back and forth between tasks – in fact, the performance of one task is constantly interfering with the performance of the other.
Problems encountered when multi-tasking
While seemingly paying attention to two tasks at the same time when multi-tasking, people are more prone to make mistakes, perform both tasks less efficiently than if they focused on only one, often lose track of one or the other task and have to restart, and actually often take far longer to complete both tasks than if they had done them one at a time. Another problem with multi-tasking is that it may significantly add to workers’ stress levels. We are doing our psychological wellbeing no favour when we engage in multiple activities simultaneous and continuously fracture our attention and focus.
What tasks can best be multi-tasked?
It is possible to group certain compatible tasks: Examples are driving while listening to the news on the radio, or having a work-related discussion while making a cup of tea. This works well when you pair a physical activity with a mental one. Another way to multi-task is to fill pockets of “waiting” time with small tasks: For example, you can take a book to read whilst waiting for the train or in the doctors surgery. And the good news is that there is a separate area of the brain which processes music, so you can happily listen to music while you are working! Try ironing whist catching up on the news or some audio training.
Benefits to single tasking
Allowing yourself to focus on one task at a time will enable you to be more effective, to accomplish more in a day and generally to be better at what you do. At the same time it will also leave you feeling less stressed and more fulfilled, because your time will have been spent more meaningfully.
You will also feel more energised when you spend your leisure time on one significant relaxing activity, taking a real break, rather than dividing your attention between half a dozen somewhat relaxing but ultimately insignificant activities.
Use the time boxing technique of batching similar tasks together and doing them all in one time session. For example, whilst your banking page is open on your screen, process all bills, check balances and check invoices paid. Batching also works well for phone calls to make, scheduling and meetings.
The bottom line is that multi-tasking may be costing you big time: both in productivity and in overall happiness and wellbeing.
If you would like to learn how to increase your personal and business productivity by working smarter not harder, then take action NOW! Contact Wendy on 0407 967715 Email;we***@or*************.au
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