Thursday, January 29, 2015
Multi-tasking is a way of life today. We all have so much information to process and have it coming to us in all forms 24 hours a day; however, our brains cannot do more than one thing at one time so trying to multi-task and thinking you are getting a lot done is a myth. I’ve written about this before.
Yes, we can talk on the phone and fold laundry at the same time but trying to do two tasks that require cognitive processing is much more difficult for our brains than we realize. As complex as they are, our brains were not designed to do more than one cognitive task at a time. I’ll spare you the dreaded stories about why you can’t text and drive or even successfully talk on the phone and drive at the same time, without your attention being diverted away (repeatedly) from the task of driving.
Suffice it to say that it simply takes more time to refocus on a task as you move back and forth between multiple tasks than if you were to just remain focused on one thing at a time. Spending a dedicated amount of time on one task (say, 30-60 minutes) and then moving onto something new is a lot more productive than, for example, trying to create a PowerPoint presentation and listen to a teleconference call at the same time, or, trying to have a conversation with your daughter and answer an email at the same time. The distraction makes completing whatever ‘tasks’ your working on take much longer. Plus, the distraction takes you away from being present and fully focused on what’s going on right in front of you.
For those of us who lead very busy lives, the idea of not multi-tasking is a hard one to grasp but it is one I work on with my clients and myself. How do you do this? Practice. If your daughter walks in the room to talk to you and you’re working on your computer, make a choice to do only one thing as opposed to trying to do both at the same time. Either ask her to wait a minute so you can finish what you’re doing, or, stop typing on your computer, look away from it and directly at her and, focus on what she needs before returning to your computer. It’s quite simple; not necessarily easy but the concept is simple. It takes practice. We’ve developed habits of doing two and three things at one time. This not only scatters our attention but also keeps us from being fully present in each moment. It’s time to shift those habits back to being present and doing only one thing at a time. Not only will this allow you to be more present in each moment but you’ll also start being more productive. More focused attention equals greater productivity. This is why I included doing one thing, and only one thing, at a time on my list of what’s in for 2015 and multi-tasking on my what’s out list. Giving my full attention to the person or task (and only that person or task) at hand allows me to fully experience and enjoy what I’m doing in that moment. I’ll be honest; I had to turn off the TV while typing this blog post.
Tell me…how many other things are you trying to do as you read this blog post right now…?