The Secret About Multi-tasking
Focus, multi-tasking, interruptions and getting more done.
task-switching, multi-tasking, turning off notifications, focus, getting things done
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The Secret About Multi-tasking

The Secret About Multi-tasking

A friend mentioned that her (big) company recently has added Instant Messaging to their IT system.  She says, “now, while I’m on the phone, or in a meeting, in addition to having to check emails, I have these IM’s popping up at me.”  WHAT WERE THEY THINKING???!!!!???!!!!

A study by Microsoft found that it takes an employee an average of 15 minutes to return their attention back to the previous task when distracted by email, instant message, etc.

I know, you think you are special and while you can accept that multi-tasking doesn’t work for everyone else, you can still manage it.  I suspect that you can’t.  [Also understand that there is a difference between multi-tasking and a white-noise activity.  Some people need to doodle, color, play solitaire, etc. to stay focused.]

The secret about multi-tasking?  The secret is that you can’t multi-task. The brain can only do one thing at a time.  You may a fast “task-switcher,” which means you can move from task to task quickly, but the brain is only capable of holding one thought process at a time!  Bummer.

What can you do to get more done?  Try these tips for a week – then assess:

Turn off notifications. Each time you get one it’s a dopamine infusion to your brain – you are addicting yourself to interruptions and probably don’t even realize the negative effect these have on you:

  • Turn off the pesky email pop-up – (in Outlook you can disable the notification through Tools – Options – Preferences – Email Options – Advanced Email Options and then un-check Play a Sound; Briefly Change Mouse Cursor; Show an Envelope; Display New Mail Desktop Alert.  In other programs just Google: how do I turn off _____ email notifications).
  • You don’t need a beep for every little thing on your smartphone and iPad.  Actually, you’ll miss important stuff if EVERYTHING beeps.  (Go to your Settings icon, select notifications and turn off as much as you can).

Clear your surface: 

  • The place you are working (your desk) should ONLY have what you are working on in front of you.  I love credenza’s and/or L-shaped desks for projects in process.  That way you can consciously move what you are working on in front of you, and when you’re done consciously put it aside.

Make Voice Mail your default: 

  • When the phone rings check your caller ID.  Instead of thinking “do I want to talk to this person” think “can I talk to this person later.” Personally, I’m a big fan of scheduling phone appointments – I think it is much more effective and polite.  I am in control of my phone destiny and choose best times to talk.

Wishing you a much more productive and focused week.

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