I sat in a conference room at the annual NAPO conference when Alan Brown of ADD Crusher made the bold statement that “multitasking doesn’t make you more efficient.” What!? I was shell-shocked and immediately disagreed. I thought I thrived on multi-tasking? While mulling over this bold statement, I was checking my email, taking notes, and balancing my coffee cup on my knee. As my coffee almost spilled into my computer and onto the gal next to me, I realized maybe I am living in a false reality of multi-tasking.
Have I been fooling my brain all along? If it’s true that multi-tasking does not equal increased efficiency, then I have been wasting a whole lot of time.
Now, I feel a little in denial, but I humbly admit, I am beginning to believe this dirty little secret. I’ve been trying to eliminate dual tasks, and I have even been preaching to my beloved clients that multi-tasking isn’t going to make them more productive. In fact, I’m here to boldly let the secret out that multi-tasking is better defined in my life [and your’s] as multi-distracting.
It goes like this:
I’m at my desk with my favorite coffee cup waiting for a document to download. After a cold sip of joe, I decide I need to heat it up. And it begins…I walk towards the kitchen, and as I pass the laundry room I realize the washer is done, so I should switch loads. I put down my cup and “quick” switch the laundry then walk to the kitchen. I forgot my cup in the laundry room so I retrace my steps back to retrieve my cup. I put my cup in the microwave, punch in 20 seconds and instead of waiting there, I see there is a check to deposit, so I “quick” make out the deposit slip. I realize I’m about out of deposit slips so I get out my phone to put it on the list. On my phone I see I have a text message and Facebook notification [which I can’t resist] so I quick check both of them. Then I finally get to my list app and put deposit slips on it. I walk back into my office to work, sit down, and what did I forget? My COFFEE CUP. When I go back to get it, it’s COLD!
This is a realistic, and possibly pathetic, example that multi-tasking creates more distractions. I am proof that a 45 second task turned into a 15-minute ordeal where the objective was never even achieved.
And thus I ask you, as Alan Brown asked his class that day, “what are you doing now?”
Did you stumble upon this website because you were mindlessly scrolling on Facebook, searching for a new coffee cup, or because you intended to read a blog post? [Now that you’re here, you might as well keep reading…]
Supposedly we can have 50,000 thoughts a day. That’s more than one thought a second! I’m sure some of us bring this average up or down, but regardless, it proves that we have a very hard time keeping our thoughts, and our actions, to one focused task.
I challenge you to take one hour of your day and be overtly aware of how many times you get distracted or attempt to do two things at once. I think you’d be amazed at how multi-distracted your actions, tasks, and thoughts truly can be.
Tips to keep on task:
- Prioritize tasks for the day
- Keep a note of the distracting ideas that need attention [if you think you’ll forget by not addressing it in the moment, but don’t get off task by writing it down…]
- Have a productive to-do list
- Does the distracting task really need to be addressed now [i.e. is your phone going to explode if you don’t respond to your friend right away]
- Set a timer in 20 minute increments as a trigger to refocus
- Identify what distracts you the most and eliminate it [i.e. if it’s the phone, put it on airplane mode and only check every 60 minutes]
- State your objective out loud before starting a task for verbal accountability
- Build in mental breaks
- What works for you?
I’ve discovered I want to multi-task the most when I am doing dreaded tasks. BUT, the silver lining is that if I stay focused, the task gets completed sooner, quicker, and usually better, plus it allows time to do the other things that need to be accomplished. Now, I’m not saying you can’t do other tasks while the washer is running, but if it interrupts your current productivity, it’s not making you more efficient. Choose to do laundry when you are doing other household related tasks or only switch it on pre-determined breaks.
In this new discovery and secret sharing, I continue to cherish that we are all different. Some of us have the ability to stay more focused than others. And some are busy all day and feel they don’t get anything accomplished. The second secret, and most powerful secret, is that YOU have the ability to shift your productivity and your focus if you dedicate a little attention to it.
We have much to do in a day, or in a second, so what are you doing now?