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Multitasking Renders You Less Productive

Multitasking sends a message to your subconscious that this is how you must proceed to stay competitive and succeed

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Dividing your attention to complete multiple activities at once can make you less effective at everything you’re doing.

From CEOs to newbie hires, everyone has numerous tasks to manage throughout the course of a day, week, month, and year. The multitude of responsibilities on your plate requires the capacity for self-management, time management, and the effective allocation of your resources. However, don’t confuse legitimate workplace skills with the contemporary, ill-advised phenomenon called multitasking.

A False Promise

Multitasking might appear to be a reliable way to tackle many issues that compete for your time and attention. It seems intuitive that if you can juggle both A and B concurrently, you’re achieving a productivity gain and saving significant time. But the fallacy in that argument is surmising that the human brain can double-up or triple-up on tasks with no loss of attention, focus, or effectiveness.

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A plethora of psychological studies have shown that the human brain can only give “sharp attention” in one direction at a time. Seeking to give this level of attention in multiple directions yields a reverberating type of attention allotted to each activity and predictably results in a loss of mental acuity and productivity.

A clear example of multitasking is when you’re driving along the highway and speaking on a smartphone. Even if you switch to the hands-free speaker phone feature, both activities compete for your brain’s vital sharp attention. So you execute neither activity as effectively as you could by undertaking one activity at a time. It’s also prudent to point out that driving while talking on the phone-hands-free or not-contributes to distracted driving and an elevated rate of vehicular accidents.

Multitasking Coexists Best With Routine

Certainly, it’s okay to multitask while completing some repetitive and familiar work activities. You can run a print job while you work with a file on your screen, for example. As long as the printer has adequate toner and the paper feeds through as designed, there is no deficit in multitasking in this manner.

Nevertheless, for whatever task you are attempting to handle, the fact that you are running a print job at the same time is likely to diminish your overall effectiveness.

The loss in mental acuity will be relatively minor, and you might not even be aware of it. The real risk of workplace multitasking, however, is that you never quite retreat to that mental space where you can offer concerted concentration and, hence, your best work. But if you trace your actions over time, you’ll likely see that for the larger tasks you executed effectively, you stopped multitasking and focused on the task at hand.

Sending the Wrong Message

Multitasking sends a message to your subconscious that this is the way you have to proceed to stay competitive and succeed. When multitasking becomes ingrained in your psyche, you’re telling yourself deep down that you can’t make it in your chosen profession any other way. You end up missing the benefits derived from practicing the art of “doing one thing at a time.”

Multitaskers have trouble “seeing the forest for the trees” and often fail to focus on the most critical components of their day-to-day operations, abandoning less palatable tasks because they require creativity, concentration, and analysis.

As an everyday practice, repeated often, multitasking separates those who continually scramble to keep pace from those who rise to the top.

Avoid the Bind

Since we all face multiple priorities on the job, it’s easy to equate managing multiple priorities with multitasking. The larger and more vital the task, the more essential to focus on it intently. Practice doing one thing at a time. When you’ve finished a project or have taken it as far as you can, only then should you switch focus to your second most important task, and so on.

As your day and work unfold, mastering the art of doing one thing at a time is the best way to proceed. You may, however, multitask on issues that represent the routine or familiar and that carry few consequences for lost time on the trail. In general, though, your best strategy for high productivity is to forsake multitasking and its false promise as you handle the multiple priorities that you face.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Bite-Sized Motivation

The insights or wisdom we need to get us going often don’t have to be more than a few words

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I’ve spoken to 1075 audiences at conventions, conferences, and meetings, and have had the opportunity to hear probably 800 other speakers as well.

The insights, perspectives, or wisdom we need, to get us going often don’t have to be more than a few words. Here are 52 of my own six word “speeches,” drawn from my keynotes and breakout session on the topic of work-life balance. Some of these likely will resonate with you:

Choose from what you already have.
Everyone needs breathing space, especially you.
Information overload obscures meaning and relevance.
Deep breathes are essential for well-being.

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Make every day an organized day.
Allow your natural rhythms to rule.
Stay confident and in control daily.
Manage your time, manage your life.

Slow down to plot your course.
Look for the best in others.
Make yourself indispensable on the job.
Compete with yourself, not with others.

Learn to take control of today.
Manage your time to make time.
Take control of your desk clutter.
You’re the best when you’re fresh.

Do something to take control now.
Major projects often require a jumpstart.
Methodically pare down your paper piles.
Don’t attempt too much at once.

Evaluate your situation and what’s important.
Narrow your priorities to stay focused.
Avoid making promises you can’t keep.
Learn to embrace your many talents.

Take the time to become organized.
Become aware of how you react.
Arrange your space; help isn’t coming.
Manage the flat surfaces in life.

Periodically challenge yourself to perform better.
Take long, deep breaths as needed.
Reclaim your places, spaces, and graces.
Start big projects well in advance.

Don’t rush the truly important things.
Make the best use of today.
Schedule accordingly: plan for your future.
Be kind, cut yourself some slack.

Opportunity knocks, but are you answering?
Conventional wisdom has diminishing value.
When practical, substitute time for money.
The market for top talent lives.

The self-reliant survive and thrive.
Leadership requires forethought and super-vision.
Learn from and capitalize on mistakes.
Firmly face the future with confidence.

“Now” holds a lot of opportunity.
Control but don’t curb your enthusiasm.
Treading water won’t propel you forward.
Have you ever really tested yourself?

Life goes on; do your best.
Continually seek out the higher ground.
Luck is distributed evenly, but disguised.
You must be doing something right.

 


 

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Work-Life Balance in Your Life

It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life

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Work-life balance (WLB) is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life with sufficient leisure. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.

Work-life balance entails having what I call “breathing space” for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work, and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.

Supporting Disciplines

Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:

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1) Self Management

Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.

2) Time Management

Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.

3) Stress Management

By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.

4) Change Management

In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.

5) Technology Management

Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.

6) Leisure Management

The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.

Entirely Achievable

Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.

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