Are you a Multi-tasking Queen

18 Sep

Today started with yoga. I have been eying the class for a few weeks now. While I am usually all about the early am sweat-fest, I have been off my game with all of the dental work I’ve been going through (two surgeries down, two to go). So, I decided to ease into my day with yoga. It was a great practice that focused on breathing, being present and centered in the here and now.

Sitting still is surprisingly difficult. Try it. Close your eyes for five minutes and just breathe. Seems simple enough, but it is truly challenging, at least for me.

I find myself constantly rushing, worrying, trying to catch up on the (seems like) gazillion things I have to do. There is never enough time in the day, right? We feel tired and burned out day after day.

What we’ve lost, above all, are stopping points, finish lines and boundaries. Technology has blurred them beyond recognition. Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse.

Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you’re taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you’re driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn’t?

The biggest cost — assuming you don’t crash — is to your productivity. In part, that’s a simple consequence of splitting your attention, so that you’re partially engaged in multiple activities but rarely fully engaged in any one. In part, it’s because when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task.

But most insidiously, it’s because if you’re always doing something, you’re relentlessly burning down your available reservoir of energy over the course of every day, so you have less available with every passing hour.

I know this from my own experience. I get two to three times as much writing accomplished when I focus without interruption for a designated period of time and then take a real break, away from my desk. The best way for an organization to fuel higher productivity and more innovative thinking is to strongly encourage finite periods of absorbed focus, as well as shorter periods of real renewal.

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. If possible, work in a private space during this period, or with sound-reducing earphones. Finally, resist every impulse to distraction, knowing that you have a designated stopping point. The more absorbed you can get, the more productive you’ll be. When you’re done, take at least a few minutes to renew.

2. Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. If you don’t, you’ll constantly succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. Also, find a different environment in which to do this activity — preferably one that’s relaxed and conducive to open-ended thinking.

3. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work. This is so difficult for me to practice. My job in PR is non-stop, there is pressure to be ‘on’ all of the time.

A single principle lies at the heart of all these suggestions. When you’re engaged at work, fully engage, for defined periods of time. When you’re renewing, truly renew. Make waves.

Stop living your life in the gray zone.

Are you a multi-tasking queen? I know I am. And some times that is great; I love blowdrying my hair and reading my favorite blogs or catching the news. But, I also can literally see the benefits of focusing on one task at a time when it comes to work.

Hope you’re all finding your focus today.




One Response to “Are you a Multi-tasking Queen”

  1. IHeartVegetables September 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    Ahhh my brain like ONLY multi tasks (and not in a good way!) I always have like 6 things going on at once, which is bad! It means nothing has my full attention!

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