The Myths of Multitasking

I’m Ford Saeks, CMO of GLO and also the President and CEO of my company, Prime Concepts Group, Inc., a digital marketing firm. I specialize in helping businesses attract loyal and repeat customers, monetize social media, and ignite innovation through my tips on how to “Fordify” your business.

Today I’d like to address a hot topic in professional circles that you may even be doing right now…

The subject is multitasking, (Did you just check your watch?) and the question is:

Is multitasking delusional?

Ok, try to stay focused…

Multitasking is usually defined as doing two or more things at once, or “task switching,” i.e. switching back and forth between two tasks. For example, writing a document while jumping back and forth to your email. Maybe you’re checking your email while on the phone scheduling that appointment you’ve put off. At the same time, you’re drinking your coffee and signaling your assistant. Sound familiar?

For most of us, we have forgotten how to focus on one thing at a time. (Are you itching to read that message you just got?)

I am challenging you now.  Let’s see if you can really focus on this short article without doing anything else in the background. Don’t jump over to your email, eat that snack you have sitting there, have a side conversation, or do anything else.

What is your honest opinion on multitasking?

  • Do you think it’s more productive or less productive?
  • Are you in the habit of sending text messages while sitting in a meeting or conference?
  • Are you always checking your email while having conversations with staff members who need your full attention?
  • Are you constantly interrupted by notifications from your smartphone or smartwatch?

If you answered yes to any of these, you are not nearly as productive as you may think…and neither are your team members!

We’ve been conditioned to think that multitasking is supposed to make us more productive. It’s become the social norm, especially in younger generations where the phone has become a subconscious tool.

But in reality, multitasking is not making us more productive. And scientific research proves it.

Here’s a quick point of clarification: the term “multitasking” is a misnomer.

People can’t actually do more than one cognitive task at a time. Cognitive tasks are tasks that need your full attention.

Here are some facts:

  • Multitaskers take longer to complete tasks and produce more errors.
  • People have more difficulty retaining information while multitasking.
  • Multitaskers lose a significant amount of time switching between tasks, ultimately reducing their productivity by up to 40%.
  • Habitual multitaskers, overall, are less effective because their ability to focus has been impaired.

It is clear that multitasking not only slows down your performance, but it also affects your cognitive health and your ability to focus.

Now, assuming you do want to improve your performance, get more done, and have more time to play…

Follow these guidelines to help you focus and feel better:

#1: FOLLOW THE PARETO PRINCIPLE

This is the 80/20 Rule, which means that 20% of the work you do gives you 80% of the impact and effectiveness. You need to focus on doing the 20% of the tasks that are really effective and do them one at a time. Let me emphasize that: one. at. a. time.

#2: BLOCK OUT TIME FOR PRIORITIES

Now that you have the 20% priorities settled, block out time on your schedule for those outcomes. Then it’s important to also block out time for checking your email, checking your voicemail, and of course, that little social media post that you might be doing. Don’t answer that email just because it dropped in your inbox. Don’t read that text you just received while you’re flying down the fast-lane to get to an appointment.

#3: TAKE MENTAL BREAKS

Now, I personally fought this one for a long time: take mental breaks. The experts haven’t fully decided yet on when to take breaks, but it’s somewhere after every 50-90 minutes of focused work. I can hear my staff cheering, because I used to get so frustrated when I would see them standing in the halls talking instead of sitting at their desks working.

This isn’t an excuse to take extended breaks, but regular breaks to stand up, to breathe, to take short walks will absolutely improve how you feel, think and how you work. It also gives your brain time to refocus, especially if you are shifting gears between two major projects or appointments.

#4: CAPTURE OFF-TOPIC IDEAS & TASKS

It’s perfectly normal to be working on one thing when another thought or idea takes you off that focused task. When it does, capture it in a virtual parking lot by jotting it down, then get back to your main focused outcome. Your mind will then be at ease, and you’ll be way more productive.

Now that you have a plan, here are 7 tips to keep you on track when those inevitable interruptions happen:

  • Turn off your cell phone notifications.
  • Turn off your computer notifications.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no! When you say yes to everything, you may get quickly overwhelmed.
  • Don’t over-commit and under-deliver.
  • Remember, being busy doesn’t translate to being productive.
  • Start each day with your main priorities or tasks that you want to accomplish.
  • Next, evaluate your progress with critical thinking to determine what your distractions and interruptions are so you can get them out of your way.

When you implement these strategies to focus more and multitask less, you can get rid of those destructive habits slowing you down, and you’re going to be so much happier, healthier and productive! Your staff will appreciate you for it and so will you!

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Ford Saeks