Multi-tasking defined: the concurrent or interleaved execution of two or more jobs by a single CPU. The acronym “CPU” refers to “central processing unit” but I’m sure you knew that!
Why do we hear so much about multi-tasking or being a multi-tasker?
We are certainly not CPUs. In the 1990’s, “human multi-tasking” became all the buzz. Research was conducted to explore how the human brain processes two or more tasks at a time and its capacity limitations. The result of our multi-tasking ways is fatigue, mind overload and errors in our work. Too many tasks results in errors because the lack of focus. It does sound like a 1 + 1 equation equaling, you guessed it”¦ 2!
Yet for some reason, we still pat ourselves on the back for being the multi-tasker at work or at home. We are the supermoms accomplishing it all, right? I wouldn’t tell you that you are wrong, but we can take a look at this in a different way.
What do you miss out on when you multi-task?
- Efficiently working
- Being in the moment with what is in front of you (i.e. your kids, your spouse or your work projects)
- Making your environment less distracting
- Completing one task or project at hand
If just reading this makes you feel overwhelmed, rest assured; you are not alone. With all of the to-dos between home and work, the phone ringing, the email inbox filling up and the boss asking you for those reports, multi-tasking seems to be the only way to go. But, there’s another way if you apply some meaningful practice.
Slow it down, plan it out and set your boundaries. Let go of the multi-tasker concept and allow yourself to be the Focus Master. Yes, allow yourself to focus.
A few ways to regain your focus:
- Review the projects or things you would like to complete in a given work day.
- Set priorities and stick to them. Write it down!
- Put the cell phone down. That text message can wait!
- Shut off the email pings, flashes and notifications when you are at work. These things create distraction.
- Get the most out of your desk moments at work and set the office phone to voicemail.
- Ask yourself, “What is my focus now?” Your answer may surprise you. Then, adjust to the moment and your time accordingly. Hint: this is a good one to practice at home during your family time.
- Shut out the background noise. Are office intruders a problem? Whether someone is coming by to chat or talk business, it pulls you away from your focus. Ask your co-workers or manager for office time without interruptions.
- Set your boundaries. This concept may be a delicate dance depending on your company culture. If your manager is one who pulls you into meetings spontaneously, ask him or her for ten extra minutes to wrap up the task you’re completing at that moment, rather than jumping out of your chair at the request. Or, offer a time later in the day that will work for you. Impromptu meetings are typically less productive and very distracting.
- You just finished one project or task. Reward yourself! Stretch, breathe deeply or get up and move around. A walk outside will help you decompress and give you a kick of energy, especially in the middle of the day.
In a culture that perpetuates the multi-tasking cycle, we can easily get caught up in trying to do it all and doing it all at once. We are not CPUs even on a good multi-tasking day!
Ease into becoming a Focus Master by practicing a few of these techniques at any time during your busy week. You will regain “focus” in no time!
Definition Source: Dictionary.com
Research Source: Dual-Task Interference in Simple Tasks: Data and Theory