Post Lockdown: Are You Juggling Too Many Tasks?        ⋆ Politicrossing
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Post Lockdown: Are You Juggling Too Many Tasks?       

Concentration and focus are under rated in our current era of multitasking

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As traffic starts to mount up everywhere, and more people are heading back to office, is the ill-advised practice  of multi-tasking regaining a foothold? Considering all that you need to do personally and professionally, are you attempting to handle too much?

These days, we all seem to be human doings, not human beings. Unfortunately, we give short shrift to concentration and focus. Indeed, concentration and focus are under rated in our current era of multitasking.

Consider this: A magnifying glass held up at the correct angle to the sun will quickly burn a hole through a piece of paper: concentration and focus. Meanwhile, no matter how much sun shines through your office window onto your desk, none of those tedious memos are going to catch on fire.  The lack of combustibility has nothing to do with the way the manufacturer engineered this flat piece of glass.

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Multi-tasking is occasionally helpful and satisfying but, along with the shower of information and communication overload, represents a paradoxical impediment to getting things done. Let’s see why.

Faster and Less Attentive

The term multi-tasking evolved from the computer industry, the early mainframe computers designed with parallel processes is perhaps the prime example of automated multi-tasking.

In many respects, the computer has accelerated our inattentiveness.  Personal computers achieved critical mass in 1981 with the introduction of the Apple Computer designed as an alternative to the IBM PC.  The affordable technology enabled us all to engage in sequential activities and elevate our propensity to become task-switchers.

Then for many reasons, and some so bizarre that they defy description, over the next 40 years we began to emulate our computers, multi-tasking while they multi-tasked.

Today, with the typical office professional sending or receiving more than 200 messages a day, counting all forms of communication, and all of them coming and going at shorter intervals, a generation of career professionals are being driven virtually to distraction. A number of the messages are fleeting, the meaning often unclear, and the result a listless and confused workforce.

Against the back drop of information and communication overload, ever-advancing technology, and more choices than anyone needs or even wants, an entire workforce generation has been taught to multi-task as if this is the way it has always been, needs to be, and always will be.

Continuous Partial Attention

Undivided attention is a term that has fallen out of use! Multitasking has become a norm giving rise to “continuous partial attention,” where nothing gets your true and undivided focus, and everything is homogenized to the point of carrying nearly equal weight.

We offer our attention here, there, and then somewhere else. Like a one-man band, we get our strokes from strumming the guitar, tapping our foot, and blowing on the harmonica. We equate accomplishment with flapping our wings, stirring up commotion, and making a lot of noise.

We can barely tolerate stillness. For many, silence doesn’t appear to be golden; it seems more like a dark space, lacking productivity that can yield nothing useful.

Undivided attention is a term that has fallen out of popular use. Generally, we feel guilty if we don’t multi-task! We contemplate our increasing workloads and responsibilities and how they are subject to continual shifts, and justify multi-tasking as a valid response to a world of flux.

Despite the temptation to do otherwise, focusing on the task at hand is vital to getting things done. Whether there’s a handful of tasks confronting you, or ideally only one, give all your time, attention, energy, focus, concentration, effort, and all that good stuff to the task at hand, and then turn to what’s next.

Over-employed, and Undesired

It’s likely that people have always sought to handle many things simultaneously, stretching as far back as cave dwellers. Their multi-tasking effort probably seemed crude by comparison. Someday, somewhere, someone may discover that we are hardwired to continuously attempt to economize our use of time.

Our age old “flight or fight” response to perceived stressors in the environment works well, at intermittent times. The small jolts of concentrated energy and vigilance helps us to safeguard ourselves, our loved ones, and our possessions.

As a species however, we are not wired to effectively handle continuous streams of two major stress hormones — adrenaline and cortisol — on a daily basis.

Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., director of the neuroendocrinology lab at Rockefeller University, observes that while we can apparently weather stresses and rapid hormonal changes in the short term, about 3 to 15 days, soon thereafter chronic stress begins to ensue.

The result is a weakened immune system, aggression, anxiety and a decrease in brain functioning which results in burnout. Dangerously high levels of cortisol can result in poor sleep patterns and insulin resistance, which can open the door to bad eating habits and weight gain.

 

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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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Business

Delegation: An Ongoing Phenomena

Failure to delegate effectively often happens because team leader don’t trust the people with whom they’re working

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For most of your career, you’ve read or heard that one of the key approaches to getting things done is to delegate effectively. This presumes that you have others to whom you can delegate. In my contact with more than 950 organizations over the last two and a half decades, I’ve found increasingly that people have fewer resources, a lower budget, and less staff people. If they want to get something done, often they have to do it themselves!

Assuming you have others to whom you can delegate, the first or second time you personally tackle a particular task yields useful information. You learn more about the nature of the task, how long it takes, and whether or not you enjoy doing it.

By the third time, a task of the same ilk as those you’ve handled before often becomes best handled by someone reporting to you. Such tasks could involve updating a database, completing an interim report, or assembling meeting notes.

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All that You Can

On the path to getting things done, your quest is to identify all those things that you can possibly delegate to others and then prepare those others so that they have a high probability of succeeding. In the course of your workday there may be only a handful of things that you alone need to do because of your experience, insight or specialized knowledge. Everything else that can be delegated should be.

Some people feel they have to take care of everything themselves and to this day haven’t been able to break the habit of “doing it all.” If this someone is in your seat right now, recognize that as a category of one, you can only get so much done.

Many managers and supervisors fail to delegate effectively because either they don’t fully trust the people with whom they’re working, or they’ve always been get-it-all-done-by-myself types.

Take Time before You Assign

Prior to delegating anything to anyone, take the time to actually prepare your staff for delegation. This would involve assessing an employee’s skills, interests, and needs. You could even ask people what new tasks and responsibilities they would like to assume. You might be surprised at the wide variety of responses you receive. There may be people on your staff right now who can help you with tasks you’ve been dying to hand off to someone but didn’t see how or when you could put them into play.

While you want to delegate to staff people who show enthusiasm, initiative and interest, or have otherwise previously demonstrated the ability to handle and balance several tasks at once, sometimes you have to delegate to someone who has not exhibited any of the above. In that case, delegate on a piece-meal basis.

Ensure that the staff person is able to effectively handle the small task or tasks he’s been assigned and does not feel swamped or overloaded. When the staff person demonstrates competence, you can increase the complexity of assignments and even the frequency with which you delegate.

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Multi-tasking: More Harm than Good

In this day and age, where so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray!

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I belong to a local health club, and while I was there one day, I saw a woman get on the Stairmaster. I watched as she whipped out an mp3 player and started listening to music. Then, to my surprise, she reached into her gym bag, pulled out a book, and placed it on that ledge to read. I almost asked her if she would like a piece of gum!

Today, when so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray! More often than we care to pretend, in the office and at home, we invite more than we can handle, and then act as though we didn’t. As individuals, throughout society, we are trained to believe that the ability to multi-task is a great attribute. Unfortunately, that’s a big mistake. Here’s why, and how to avoid multi-tasking in the future.

First Things First

What’s the fastest and easiest way to handle six tasks competing for our attention? Identify the most important task, second most important, third most important, and so on, then tackle the first and finish it all the way, move on to the second and complete it, then move all the way down the list.

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Any other way of tackling those items, whether they are tasks for home or work, is simply not as efficient. The catch is, any other way is more psychologically satisfying.  Why?  It’s almost as if juggling projects, switching gears unnecessarily or abruptly, or leaving a job unfinished to start a new project gives you the opportunity to say to other people, “Hey, look at me! Look how involved I am! Look at how busy I am! I’m great at multi-tasking.” A multi-tasker, however, can’t compete with others who tackle their to-do list, one item at a time.

What about doubling up as a procedure for tackling a number of routine items or very simple tasks? You can eat dinner and read a book at the same time. Eating and reading at the same time is relatively harmless.

How about driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time? Driving requires your sharp attention, as does carrying on an intelligent conversation with someone else who is not present; doing both at the same time spreads your attention too thin, with often disastrous results. The same is true for projects you’re working on that require your best thinking.

Tips:
* give yourself 5 to 10 minute intervals to focus on the task at hand
* safe-guard your immediate environment to avoid interruptions
* acknowledge yourself whenever you stick to one task and finish it
* repeat all the above, often, knowing that ‘more often’ is better!

Your Undivided Attention

When you’re working on a new task, brainstorming, engaging in first-time thinking, or doing creative work, it’s vital to offer your complete and undivided attention to that one task before you. To dissipate your attention or otherwise stray means you are not going to do your best work.

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