The Multi-Task Myth
You are NOT Multi-tasking . . . you are doing more than One Thing Inefficiently
Welcome to Part 3 of this 4-Part series on Profitable Time Management.
What would happen if you were just 10% more effective in using your time? In a 10-hour work day, that is picking up 1 hour to do something different. That something could be time with family, a new project or just more sleep! The bottom line is (we are talking about profits after all) you do not have to rearrange your world to get better. Incremental change can make a huge difference in your personal satisfaction and, of course, your profitability.
So, hear this! One fact is very clear: Humans are not capable of effectively “focusing” on more than one thing at a time.
Effectively Focusing means you start and finish projects timely. You get things done! You deliver! Now, if you believe you are good at focusing that is great, you can get even better. Remember, life is a process, not a destination.
We all Multi-task
Humans have always done multiple things at once (walking and talking, for example). What has happened in recent years is all of the technology has brought more and more opportunities for us to be distracted to our finger tips. All of these new sensory inputs have actually lessened our ability to be productive on those things that are most important.
Here is a simple question, when is the last time you sat and worked on one thing for 30 minutes without the TV, radio, phone, pinging text messages, surfing Facebook or someone approaching you to ask a question? When did you last sit for 1 hour uninterrupted? If you are challenged to remember when that was, you definitely have a great opportunity to improve your productivity and that will translate into giving you more time to control your life.
The More you Multi-task, the Lower Your Productivity!?
This information is a real shocker. A study at Stanford University by Professor Clifford Nass revealed that the more you multi-task the less able you are to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant information. Furthermore, your mind is more likely to switch involuntarily between the other tasks you are working on instead of staying fixated on the task at hand. Bottom line, it takes you longer to do everything!
Multi-tasking is Addictive
Now the scariest part of all this information is that once you get into receiving multiple sensory inputs, it is difficult to break the habit. The more you do it the more you psychologically crave all of those inputs as they stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. As a matter of fact, researchers have found that the more challenging a particular task is the more likely you are to add an easy task to do at the same time (adding music or reading Facebook postings while studying or writing a paper).
10 Simple Steps to Improved Productivity
I want you to stop and remember that even a 10% improvement in your ability to stay focused is 1 hour in additional time in a 10-hour day (or 2.4 hours in a full day!). Implement some of these tactics. Track your results and tell me how it is going.
- Do not read emails, surf the internet or text when you get up in the morning. It has been determined that your priorities for the entire day can be changed by what you read. Establish what is a priority before you go to sleep and get through the first part of the morning intent on completing that task.
- If you are looking for something specific in email or text, just read the relevant email–nothing more!
- Set aside time where you eliminate all distractions that interfere with your work. Turn off or silence all devices and tell your staff and family not to disturb you–period!
- Manage people’s expectations of your responsiveness
- Let people know that you will return phone calls within 2 – 4 hours versus immediately. This takes the pressure off to respond right away.
- Tell YOURSELF that you don’t need to answer every phone call or read and respond to text messages except at designated times of the day.
- Consider 2 or 3 times per day to respond to calls, emails and text messages. Also, set a limit on the time you will do these tasks.
- Stop wearing your phone on your belt and put the phone on silent mode. Check the phone every 30 minutes to an hour for emergencies (excluding your designated quiet time).
- If it is your staff that most frequently calls you with questions, it is very possible that you have not empowered them TO make decisions. Doing this one thing will make you a more powerful (and profitable) manager.
- Establish your most important morning task before you leave the office at night. That way you do not need to look at your phone in the morning
- Sleep when it is time for sleep. Turn off the TV and/or Radio before you fall asleep. This is a big one for me that I have changed!
- Never, ever, check your phone and NEVER EVER EVER answer a phone call in the middle of a meeting. First, this is flat out rude. Second, it disrupts the meeting. And third, it breaks the concentration of everyone in the room. That makes this one of the most expensive multi-tasking mistakes you can make. Just multiply the disruption by the number of people in the room to figure out the potential cost.
- Disable the notifications that lets you know you have new messages. Let’s face it — you “know” you have something every few minutes. So stop temping yourself by knowing just how many you actually have!
- Create a separate work email and do not use it for purchases or personal reasons. This will help you to stay focused on what is truly important during the day.
So there you have it! A simple straightforward set of tactics to gain at least 1 hour of time each day.
You can do this!
Do not feel discouraged if you do not change your habits right away. Remember this is a process not a destination.
Here is to your continued success!
Remember the First Fact in Business… The Success of Failure of any Organization is the responsibility of the People Running the Organization – Management