Multitasking is “merely the opportunity to screw up on more than one thing at a time.” — Steve Uzzell, author
We often think that by multitasking, we accomplish more. And since there’s so much to do, it makes sense that we’d try anything to tackle tasks, oust overwhelm and feel good at the end of the day.
Alas, my friend. Multitasking doesn’t work.
“We answer e-mails while yapping on the phone. We schedule appointments while driving and listening to the radio. And it seems as if we’re focusing on all these tasks simultaneously, as if we’ve become true masters of doing 10 things at once. But research shows that’s not really the case,” writes NPR’s Jon Hamilton in Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again.
It’s true: For tasks requiring us to process information, thoughts bottleneck in our brains like too many cars on an L.A. freeway. What we think of as multitasking is really toggling between tasks at super-sonic speed.
“If you pride yourself on being a master of multitasking, you could be overestimating how efficient you truly are,” writes Amy Levin-Epstein for CBS News. “According to Dave Crenshaw, author of The Myth of Multitasking, most people aren’t really ‘multitasking.’
“Instead, they’re doing what he calls ‘switch-tasking.’
“’Your brain isn’t able to handle more than one task at a time. You’re actually switching rapidly back and forth between tasks,’ says Crenshaw. The problem? Switch-tasking is a major waste of time. ‘Every time you switch, there is a transition period between one task to another. Things take longer, you make more mistakes and you increase your stress levels.’”
Sound familiar? Try these 3 tips instead of multitasking
Are you crazy-busy but have little to show for it at the end of the day? Does your to-do list make you want to curl into a fetal position of powerlessness at only 10 AM? It may be time to lower the bar of your expectations, learn to delegate, reprioritize or put tasks aside for another day.
Make a “don’t-do” list
Jot down things you want to stop doing. For example, you might want to stop checking email and texts so much, since this can be a big-time distraction. A London study showed workers’ IQ dropped 10 points when they engaged with technology during meetings — an impact equal to losing a full night’s sleep. Yikes! On your “don’t do” list, you may decide you’re no longer available 24/7 and will instead check in at certain specific times.
Use apps to focus
If you’ve ever asked, “Now, where was I?” chances are good you’re toggling twixt tasks and are trying to re-focus on what’s in front of you. Sharpen clarity with a few well-chosen apps: Try Focus at Will for ambient music to boost attention, My Minutes to track time and Time Out, which reminds you to take intentional, healthy breaks from work.
Your turn: Do you ever feel overwhelmed by tasks? What helps you? Let me know in the comments.
P.S. In case you missed last week’s post, you can read “3 morning rituals for entrepreneurs” right here.