Are you good at multitasking?
Have you ever walked into a room to do one task, then find yourself starting a completely different one, only to discover a little while later, that you have forgotten about the original task?
Do you regularly check your emails or read notifications whilst writing a report then wonder why you have lost your flow?
If this is familiar to you then you, like me, are a multitasker!
Many of us regularly multitask and the reality is that we live in a world which facilitates this. With constant notifications for our email and social media, and the notion that we should be contactable at all times!
The results are that we are easily distracted and can find multitasking as the norm.
What happens when we multitask?
When we multitask what we are really doing is task switching. Our attention is shifting between different tasks meaning that each time we return to the previous task we have to re-focus. This uses up more of our energy and attention which actually takes more of our time.
If we carry too many thoughts in our minds we become overloaded with information as our attention shifts. When we are distracted by having to manage multiple things this affects our ability to concentrate. The results are that we become less effective.
The evidence is that multitasking is not effective. In fact it can cause us to feel overwhelmed because we are not in control of the many tasks we are trying to accomplish.
Is multitasking an inevitable part of our life?
Many women are busy juggling their personal and professional lives and the challenges this brings. With a growing to-do list it is easy to see the answer being to spread ourselves widely in order to complete the necessary tasks.
When we include the rise in technology and the additional pressures and expectations upon us, both by others and ourselves, it is no wonder we feel tempted to multitask. So it is easy to understand why many of us view multitasking as an effective way of getting things done.
It can seem that multitasking is an inevitable part of our world, but does it have to be this way?
The reasons we multitask
In order to tackle multitasking, we need to understand why we do it. Here are some reasons why we might multitask.
The belief that we are being more effective - We believe we will save time by doing more than one task at a time, especially when we are busy.
Avoidance or Procrastination - We do not want to do the task or become stuck and switching to another task is a great way of avoiding this.
Boredom - When lacking interest in what we are doing it is tempting to switch to something else which holds our attention.
Too busy - When there is too much going on the tendency is to try and do many things at the same time. This is often a sign that we are overwhelmed and risk burnout.
Disorganised or lack focus - Without a clear plan about what you are doing, it is much easier to get distracted and lose focus.
So what can you do?
Understand that you are task switching rather than multitasking and know that this is less effective.
If you find yourself doing multiple tasks ask yourself why you are switching tasks and deal with the reason if you can.
When you do switch between tasks try and leave one task at a point that is easy to pick back up. This will prevent you having to go back on work already done and regain focus quickly. For example finish the paragraph you are working on or complete the email you are composing.
Ask yourself which task is most important for you to do at that time. Be more intentional and make a plan for the tasks which need to be done that day or week.
Get rid of any distractions and switch off notifications when doing a task which needs your full attention.
Allow yourself a set time to do a task before moving on to the next one and take regular breaks.
Allow your mind times to be still and try mindfulness practices as a way of being more aware and present.
The most helpful thing for me has been to re-frame my thinking to understand that I am task switching rather than multitasking.
The reality is that there will be times when you switch between tasks. It is important to be aware that this is what you are doing. By changing your thinking you will be more conscious about which task has your focus and attention.
When you learn to recognise when you are task switching you are more likely to consciously stop or find more effective ways of managing this process. This will allow you to identify your reasons for task switching and enable you to deal with the cause.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog
My name is Diane Benson and I support busy professional women in their personal and professional development. For a healthy work/life balance, reduced stress and increased effectiveness.
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