Set Three and Be Free: End Multitasking

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

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Are you “crazy” busy all day and then come home exhausted wondering what did you actually accomplish today?

            No matter where you work or what you do you are exposed to the “instantness” of technology. The cellphone rings, the email dings and the fax hums. People want information or solutions instantly and often that means interrupting others, including you, to get it. You could spend an entire day responding to emails, phone calls or interruptions and never get a single thing crossed off your to do list. Sure, you may be accomplishing a great deal but is it the important stuff or just the “urgent” (louder, more in your face type)? 

            The facts are in from several studies indicating that we not only lose time when multitasking but also efficiency and mental capabilities. Some estimates indicate 20-40% decrease in our IQ when truly multitasking. If that is interfering with our ability to get things done then it’s no surprise that we often feel that nothing significant gets done. So the first step is to determine what is important. Usually we wait until some deadline or time limit (usually imposed by another) puts pressure on us to complete the task before we force ourselves to focus long enough to complete it. Needless to say this adds stress to our lives and possibly to others that we need to get information or help from when they are forced to adhere to our time table.

            So, determine what is important before you start each day. Be realistic and list only 3 tasks that you deem important. If only those three things were done, would you go home happy feeling like a success?

            Next find a block of time in the morning that you can work on the first task. Do not check your email before starting on this task. Julie Morgenstern, an organizing expert has written, “Never Check Email in the Morning” with lots of tips on how to be more effective at work. During this block of time which can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as 90 minutes, turn off audible notifications and do not answer the phone, or check email. Each time you switch between tasks you lose your focus and studies indicate it takes 15-25 minutes to regain that same amount of focus.

            Lastly, if you are interrupted or must stop unexpectedly, then write yourself a note explaining what your next step is. This will decrease the amount of time it takes you to get back into the “flow”. Continue with each task until completed, then check email or return phone calls. This puts you in control and not technology in control. Dr. Edward Hallowell suggests that, “…despite our belief that we cannot control how much we’re overloaded, we can. “We need to recreate boundaries,” he said. “That means training yourself not to look at your BlackBerry every 20 seconds, or turning off your cellphone.”

            There is no way to escape the onslaught of technology unless you make active choices. Start today and list your three most important, manageable tasks for tomorrow’s success. There, I finished my first task for today by publishing this blog. Next up the treadmill and then visiting a sick friend. Wishing you a successful day that you control. Let me know how you do.         







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