In my last blog, I outlined many downsides of multitasking: lower productivity, more mistakes, “inattentional blindness”, damaged relationships, and overeating to name just a few. But if multitasking isn’t the solution to getting our productivity up, what strategies can we turn to?
Before the advent of personal computers, cell phones and tablets, the world moved at a much slower, but often more efficient pace. Single tasking is ready for a revival!
Although it might feel unnatural to tune out distractions by turning off your cellphone and/or logging out of your email, try spending part of a workday focusing all of your energy and attention on one task at a time. At the end of the day, compare how much you accomplished during the half where you focused your attention versus the half where you attempted to multitask. You’re likely to be surprised by how much you can actually complete when focused, rather than scattered.
Victor Imbimbo, publisher of Caring Today Magazine, suggests integrating the following practices into your work routine:
1. Prioritize your daily tasks into three groups: the tasks that you must do, tasks that you should do, and finally, those tasks that you would like to do. Focus only on the musts – everything else can wait until your priorities have been dealt with!
2. When unplanned events pop up, hit pause and decide where to include them on your to-do list. Just because tasks come up unexpectedly, it doesn’t mean they are automatically must do items.
3. When things get out of control, take a short break. Changing your physical stance often shifts your emotional state. Once you’ve reclaimed your calm, return to your must do list.
4. Compartmentalize – multitasking might feel comfortable, but making a concerted effort to narrow your focus and compartmentalize will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
5. Ask for help and/or delegate – this can be empowering. As you schedule your day, identify who on your team might be able to lend you a hand and then ask for help.
According to author Guy Winch, “Doing things in batches tends to save the most time. Complete your invoicing all at once, then, send your emails all at once. Each task requires a specific mindset, and once you get in a groove you should stay there and finish.”
Lisa Haneberg, organizational development expert, suggests “chunking” – carving out blocks of time to work on one task, project, or activity. The blocks should be at least one hour long and you should allow for several two-hour chunks per week.
Although multitasking can make us feel like we’re getting a lot done in a short amount of time, in most cases the opposite is true. It’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to free ourselves completely from multitasking, but with a bit of planning (and more concentration) we’ll be able to manage our workday pressures in a much more balanced way!
Visit www.workhealthlife.com for more helpful articles and information about how to manage stress or feeling overwhelmed in your daily or work life.
Mark Pundzius has over 15 years’ experience in career counseling, specializing in assisting workers with career management, advancement, and transition challenges. His previous incarnations as an Administrative Clerk, On-Board Service Rail Agent, Retail Manager, Antique Restorer, and Bed & Breakfast Owner/Operator have broadened his perspective on labour market realities and circuitous career paths. A graduate of the Career & Work Counsellor program at George Brown College (Toronto, Ontario), he is passionate about the changing world of work. Mark is currently the Supervisor of the Career Counselling Services team at Shepell·fgi.