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The Myth of “Multi Tasking”

22921289_ml Multi tasking is often considered the ultimate
quality of the busy, successful individual. True? How many tasks could one person do at once? Could you find a way to talk on the phone while checking your emails? Write a report while watching television? Check in with a colleague while sorting through paperwork?

It’s been proven by scientists that our brains are just not designed to think or act on two or more things  at full capacity at the same time. We can switch tasks just fine, but each time we do, our brains have to “reset” in order to focus. As a result, instead of being more productive, we’re less productive and even less creative.

For example, if you are sending an email and talking on the phone, the part of your brain that helps you see (your visual cortex) isn’t as efficient. As a result, your email may contain mistakes or be missing information. And when you hang up the phone you may ask, “now what was the person telling me?”

It takes an average of 15 minutes to re-orient to our task after a distraction such as an email. Efficiency can drop by as much as 40%.

So why do we even try to do it? Our brains are wired to gather information that comes to us in the forms of sound, smell, sight – whatever form of distraction. So while we welcome the distractions, we continue to try and multi-task.

There are ways to avoid overload and instead, “mono task”. So save your brain power and gain a little focus!

  • Try to do tasks one at a time by sticking with one until it’s completed. If you do need to move on, try to spend at least 20 minutes doing just one thing.
  • Know when to pull away from distractions. This may mean closing your door at the office, turning off your phone, even having quiet time at home.
  • Write down all your tasks on a list so your brain doesn’t have to remember them. You can check them off as they are completed. For sequential tasks, try setting 15 or 30 minute intervals to set “focus time.”
  • Choose a place for focus work that is free of distractions. It may be a meeting room that is not being used or a quiet corner of a local library. When you’re not in your own environment, you are also less likely to get distracted.
  • Practice being less reactive to stimuli. Just because your music app tells you to check out a new song, it doesn’t mean you have to do it now. Leave emails to a specific time of the day to answer. Choose what information you look at and what you discard immediately. It’s always good to ask yourself, “is this really worth my attention at this moment in my life?”

Finally, truly listen to conversations that are important, such as a story from a friend or a child telling you about their day. Turn off electronic devices; keep your hands away from remotes, magazines, papers; look into their eyes; and really listen to what they are telling you. You’ll hear more and you’ll also make a better impression as someone who’s focused and cares about the conversation.

Now, have we got your full attention?