It almost pains me to say this: I love multitasking, but these days multitasking does not love me back. Its time for a break up. At uni, I was able to successfully multitask my way through classes, assignments, volunteering and of course my social life! I always had one million things on the go. Back then, multitasking was in vogue and seen as the fastest way to get things done.
But as I sit here, with 20 different windows open my computer thinking about ideas for my blog, work, life, what I want to do on the weekend and what I am going to eat for dinner, I have realised that something has got to give. Instead of increasing my productivity, the endless list of things that I am trying to tackle at once has started to hold me back.
And it’s not just me that is turning my back on multitasking. A recent study by researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London found that multitasking with electronic media caused a greater decrease in IQ than smoking pot or losing a night’s sleep.
In her recent trip to Australia, Arianna Huffington said “Multitasking does not exist, its called task switching and it’s stressful”. As a big fan of Arianna Huffington and her quest to stop us from rushing, multitasking and being overly connected in her book Thrive, it’s time to put my best intentions into action.
So I have done some research on how to be more productive, and it seems like there are a couple of really critical first steps that a reforming multitasking addict must take:
Disconnect: these days technology is so entrenched in our lives that we are often responding to the “ping!” of our phone or email before we realise it. The difficulty is, the more we connect, the more connected people expect us to be. Replying to emails at all hours? No problems!
I am not advocating for living the life of a technical hermit, but its time to control the impact of technology on my life. This means saying goodbye to push notifications, and turning off my email notifications at work. While I worry about missing something urgent, time management experts all say that maximum productivity requires email notifications totally off. Sounds a little scary…
Reduce distractions: now I have some more technological quiet time, I figured it would be a good thing to remove other distractions. One task at a time requires focus, and who can achieve focus with 20 browsers open?
Clean your desk, remove the piles of paper from beside you and close those 20 windows you have open in your browser. Declutter the working space, declutter the mind… or so they say?
If all else fails, perhaps it is time to try a “Power Hour”. Remove distractions (this seems to be a theme!), tackle the most important task on your To Do list for 20 minutes, take a two minute break, and repeat three times. If you are lucky, your “Power Hour” will be so productive that you make some serious headway into that pesky list of things to do.
At the end of the day, everyone operates in their own different ways. When are you the most productive? Are you a reformed multitasking addict? I would love to know!