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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Doing Our Best in Handling What Was Unforeseen

Despite obstacles, there is a way to proceed and still feel good about all that you accomplish

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By now, everyone has mentally marked 2021 as one strange year. (Actually with Biden and Harris ‘leading’ the United States of America, it was already marked to be a disastrous year).

While we can’t guard against the unknown, we can do our best with what we have. Each day when you compose your to-do list and begin proceeding merrily down it, do you take into account what is likely to occur in the course of a day?

No matter how well we organize our lists and how productive we are in handling the tasks, unexpected obligations, interruptions, and other developments arise that still could throw us off.

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How do you react when you are humming along, and all of a sudden, you get an assignment from out of left field? Perhaps your boss has asked you to jump on a task or project immediately. Maybe a client calls and needs something ASAP. Maybe something gets returned to you that you thought was complete.

Stymied No Longer

If you are like most people, you might become flustered. The intrusion on your time and your progress means that you are not going to accomplish all that you set out to before the end of the day.

Is there a way to proceed and still feel good about all that you accomplish?  There is, and it involves first making a miniature, supplemental to-do list that accurately encapsulates the new task that you need to handle.

Why create this supplemental to-do list? It gives you focus and direction, reduces anxiety, and increases the probability that you will remain buoyant at the time of its completion and be able to turn back to what you were doing before the task was assigned.

If you don’t compose such a list, and simply plow headlong into the unexpected challenge that has come your way, you might not proceed effectively, and you might never get back to the to-do list on which you were working.

Anticipating the Unexpected

Unforeseen issues and tasks that arise represent more than intrusions on our time; they represent intrusions on our mental and emotional state of being. Some people are naturally good at handling unexpected situations. Most of us, however, are not wired like this. Interruptions and intrusions on our workday take us off the path that we wanted to follow, and tend to be at least momentarily upsetting.

Hereafter, when executing the items on your to-do list, proceed with the mindset that there will be an interruption of some sort. You don’t know when it is coming or how large it will be, but it will pull you off course. The key question is ‘Can you develop the capacity to maintain balance and equanimity in the face of such disruptions?’

The good news is that you can, and it all starts with acknowledging that the situation is likely to happen, devising a supplemental checklist to handle the new task, and as deftly as possible, returning to what you were doing.

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Business

Avoid the Post-Vacation Slam

Build in a small period for decompression and it will serve you well

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The holidays are here… Would you like to minimize stress associated with your  your travels?

Suppose your time away from the office is ending. Once back at work, you have a stack of messages on your desk. Your mail is eight inches high. There are email messages, memos, reports, and announcements all over the place. You experience extreme pressure to catch up. The moment you return, the whole world seems to falls in on you.

The Remedy

Plan your trips so that you return before you announced you would. Include a “decompression” phase in your plans; your trip is not complete until you comfortably reintegrate yourself. Also:

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* Take one less vacation day and build in a day for transition and decompression rather than coming back too abruptly.

* Avoid returning to work on a Monday if you can; a Monday is already a high-pressure day.

* Instruct others to handle or reroute as many phone calls as possible; and to segment your mail and other papers that come in. Return to a clean office and a clean desk.

* Unpack all your bags quickly. You might be tired, but the task will only be more burdensome later. Put all notes and papers in their place as soon as possible if you ever intend to act on them.

Whether taking time away near a holiday or merely for a few hours in mid-week, build in a small period for decompression and it will serve you well.

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