We need to talk. All that scurrying around that you do every day, reading blogs, checking Facebook, scanning your twitter feed, and email… it’s not getting you anywhere.
I know you heart is right. You want to be connected to the online community. You want to be available to your employer and your clients. You are building a platform. I’m right there with you (believe me) but all that multitasking is killing your productivity.
Everybody knows that multitasking is bad for you. Scientific study after scientific study has told us as much. Multitasking degrades your focus, slows you down, degrades the quality of your work and stresses you out. I read an article in the Harvard Business Review recently that claimed multi-tasking causes a 10-point drop in IQ and an overall productivity drain of 40%.
In truth, the human brain is not capable of true multitasking the way your phone or your tablet is. Your mind can only focus on a single thing at a time, and what we call multi-tasking is actually just rapidly switching between points of focus. Over time, this deteriorates your ability to sustain your focus for longer than a few minutes.
Here’s the weird thing. It is universally acknowledged that multitasking is bad in every imaginable way, but most people still insists upon trying to multitask.
You need to change everything that you’re doing. I know, I KNOW. This is going to be inconvenient, but truth that you know and don’t practice is wasted truth. The time has come for you to stop multi-tasking and start being more effective.
You could go cold-turkey, but if that seems a little daunting, try easing in with these steps. Start with the first one, and once you’re confident that a change to your workflow isn’t going to kill you, add another.
- Work in Bursts – If you’re a chronic multitasker, start small. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and make a commitment to remain laser-focused on a single thing until the timer rings. In-between bursts, allow your mind to relax. Take 5 minutes off, and then go at it again. As you get more comfortable with mono-tasking, you can start to expand the length of time that you spend focused.
- Kill the Ping – Turn off device notifications on Twitter, Facebook, email, text, and anything else that might beep or vibrate. These things are the siren’s song of multitasking. They are a temptation that you don’t need. Turn them off, at least when you’re working.
- Work in Batches – Grouping similar tasks together can help you move quickly through lots of small tasks. There’s a great post on Michael Hyatt’s blog about The Pomodoro Technique, one of the most popular methods for batching tasks.
- Develop a Ritual – This might feel silly at first, but some of the most productive people in the world use a ritual to help them transition into work mode. Personally, my ritual involves a prayer for clear-mindedness, one of several carefully curated Spotify playlists and a Red Bull.
- Take a Mental Siesta – I am a big fan of the power nap. If you are not the napping type, Health.com suggests reserving 10 minutes in the middle of the work day to do something that you enjoy to snap yourself out of work mode. I have found this kind of mid-day mental cleanse to be very effective; I find myself returning to my desk feeling refreshed.
- Buckle In – Make it hard for yourself to get up and do something else. I know a couple of people who actually tie themselves to their desk chair. I prop my legs up on the sub-woofer under my desk. It’s comfortable, but hard to move. It becomes inconvenient to break concentration.
I believe the most common addictions in our world are carbohydrates and multitasking. Both have similar side effects, but neither is unbreakable.
What steps are you taking to improve your focus and maximize your effectiveness?