As women, and possibly more so as moms, we usually don’t have the luxury to focus solely on one task and carry it out to the end without numerous distractions, changes and or updates initiated by others. It seems as though in order to survive and prevail in life, we have had to learn how to multi-task and adapt to constant changes in our professional and personal lives. This can however make us feel as if we are overwhelmed at times and can also result in many unfinished projects that seem to never get completed or at least completed well. And, why have we learned to accept this as “The Norm”?
If you were to look up the definition of multitasking, it is: The concurrent or interleaved execution of two or more jobs by a single CPU. If you were to look up the definition of a multi-tasker, it would be: A single person who executes two or more jobs concurrently or interleaved, and I am pretty sure there would be my name and a picture of me right next to that definition. I am also pretty sure you are saying to yourself… “That also sounds just like me. Christie’s photo is not the only one gracing the web-pages of dictionary.com as a proficient multi-tasker! I always work on multiple projects and I get more done this way.” The real question is; Do we really?????
It may surprise you to hear that people who multitask are actually less productive than those who just concentrate on one thing at a time. A recent Harvard Business Review post says that multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman, 2010). Research also indicates that even though we think we are “multitasking” it’s actually our brain rapidly switching from one task to another, rather than processing them simultaneously. I do know that I work best when I have multiple items on my “to do” list and work with a sense of urgency, but I recognize that when I get distracted by an incoming e-mail, a phone call or another idea, it takes me a while to get back into the groove of what I was doing and occasionally I forget some minor detail.
So how do we train ourselves to remain focused on one task at a time to be more productive and thorough? My plan of action to accomplish this (try to) is to stay committed to keeping my work station neat and organized and religiously follow my “to-do” list which is updated every day in order of priority. I have also limited my e-mail access and have dedicated two-time periods every day to read and respond to those communications. We all may wish to respond promptly to e-mails so they don’t accumulate, but doing so is not the most efficient use of your time. Realize that it is more important to be predictable, not necessarily prompt when responding back to e-mails
This has been my strategy since the first of the year and I have to say that I am honestly still struggling with it. I think it is my ADD tendencies that keeps directing my brain to other thoughts, but when that does happen I have a large post-it note stuck to my desk that I write that item on. I try to wait and slot that task into my list before I begin it. Sometimes that works and sometimes it does not. Another challenge for me is that I have way too many e-mails now that have to be reviewed. If I don’t answer them promptly I tend to forget about them and if I have appointments some days they just get too backed up to answer in a short time frame.
I don’t have this dilemma totally figured out yet and would love some helpful suggestions on your multi-tasking strategies.
My name is Christie and I am a recovering multi-tasker. Sometimes I am a successful single-tasker and other times I am a master juggler. My personal motto is: “It is okay to drop a ball now and then when juggling; but just don’t drop one on my head.”
Are you a skilled multi-tasker?