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multitasking stress

Multi tasking could actually be slowing you down

Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. What is called multi-tasking is actually your brain flicking from one thing to another so that each task gets a bit of your attention and the processing power of your brain. You will divide your focus over a number of things and none of them will get your full attention. When someone thinks they are multi-tasking their brain is actually trying to track a number of different thoughts and activities in their mind at the same time. This drains your energy and reduces your thinking capacity. People multi task because it ‘feels’ productive, rather than an objective analysis of results and output.

For regular, small or trivial tasks, that may not be a significant issue though it has the potential to make every one of the things you are doing take longer.

For more complex tasks, multi-tasking will inevitably result in each task taking longer and may have the added effect that you will make more mistakes, miss things or do an incomplete job that needs to be reworked.

Multi-tasking may work when you are doing tasks that you are unconsciously competent at, they are routine and no-one else is impacted. Multi-tasking does not work when tasks are not routine, they relate to other people around you or you need to give them conscious thought to achieve.

If you, or someone you know, is a proud or frustrated Multi-tasker, here are our top tips for when to slow down to get better and quicker results:

1. Never multi task on relational matters, this has the potential to destroy relationship or if with your children, lower their self esteem because they could make it mean something about them. Where there is a relationship involved, put down the phone, don’t take the call and don’t attempt to write that report. If you need to do these things whilst in the company of people you care about, frame it with them so they understand or involve them.

‘I’m going to take this call because I’ve been waiting for them to call me back. It won’t take long’

‘I’m going to Skype into a meeting with people from work, would you like to say hello to everyone before we get started’ (for children obviously not partner - that’s just weird!)

‘Could you guys play together for half an hour while I focus on getting this things done for work - then I’m all yours’

2. Do your own time and motion study. Make a list of things you want to do and then conduct an experiment:

Week 1 - do them in your usual way.

Week 2 - focus on starting and completing one thing, giving it your full attention before doing the next.

Evaluate the time spent and the quality of your results.

3. On tasks that require thought and attention, switch off distractions so that you can fully focus, it will get done quicker and to a higher standard.

4. Often people confuse multi-tasking with Flow. Flow is taking the rubbish and the thing you want to store out to the garage at the same time, rather than going backwards and forwards. This is good. Developing flow takes planning, where there are times you end up having to go back or repeat something, make a conscious decision to do that differently next time and practise it. Example; put everything that needs to go to the garage by the back door, then taking it all out.

Karen and Johns new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever will be released in the autumn. Sign up to our newsletter here to be the first to know about launch events and special offers.

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