You fancy yourself the Master of Multitasking — You and thousands of other women. I count myself among them.
But here’s the rub. While multitasking at home might work (juggling meal preparation, chores, taking care of kids, etc), in the office it doesn’t. Every time you get interrupted (or allow yourself to be interrupted) you waste valuable time and energy.
Think about the differences in the tasks you perform between home and the office:
At home you’re doing multiple things at the same time that don’t require a lot of thinking. No brain energy is required to get dinner on the table, talk to your 5-year-old, and make tomorrow’s lunches at the same time.
At the office, almost everything you do requires some kind of brain energy. The proposal you need to write, client emails that need to be answered, and phone calls you need to make.
It’s a Lie
Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe in the past, our brains can’t process more than one thing at a time.
Email is one of the biggest distractions for most people. You hear the ding of new mail in your inbox and feel compelled to see who it’s from. STOP! Every time you stop what you’re doing to check an email, it takes, on average, 64 seconds to get back to your task. How many emails do you check each day while doing something else? How much wasted time does that add up to?
Apply that to all the things you multitask. The time it takes to get back to what’s really important might change, but the fact that you waste time remains a constant, and you can never get it back.
Step off the merry-go-round. You’re likely not among the 3% of the population who are truly gifted multitaskers so stop! Focus on one thing, complete it, then move on. Your emails can wait.
I’m still guilty of multitasking but I’m far better than I used to be at focusing on one thing at a time. It makes a difference. I guarantee, nobody’s going to think less of you if you wait to look at, and respond to, email.
Stop Multitasking and Get More Done
So we know the truth is multi-tasking hurts productivity and wastes time. Are you ready to reclaim all that lost time? Here are just 5 tips to get you moving in the right direction:
1. Use a timer and take breaks.
I started using the Pomodoro method for work. It requires me to work in sprints where I focus on a singular task. Between sprints, I’m forced to get up from my desk, stretch, and take a break. During the sprints, I am more focused and able to get more done.
2. Shut off technology.
All technology. Silence your phone and turn off your email. Technology is a tool for you to use, not a master to become a slave to. My phone is set to silent mode when I work. If somebody calls, they leave a message. Calls are returned at planned intervals. The same is true for email.
3. Block calendar time.
This works especially well if you have a big project due, but applies to all tasks. (I use a paper mouse pad for my weekly blocking. It works for me.) If you have appointments for the week, block those first. Then block in the rest of the tasks you need to do: check email, return calls, pay bills, finish that proposal, networking lunch. Now act as if you’re your most important client because, in fact, you are, and keep your appointments with yourself.
4. Clear clutter from your desktop.
Clutter is a great distractor. Remove whatever papers you’re not working with from your desk. A desk piled high with files is not a badge of honor. When you want to be focused on a project, every pile, every piece of paper within eyesight has the potential to occupy mental space, demanding your attention. Remove the temptation and keep your focus.
5. Close your door.
Sometimes what pulls your attention is other people. If asking for privacy isn’t enough, close your door. You can let people know how long you’ll be unavailable, but if that’s what it takes for you to get uninterrupted time, do it.
Be creative. You know yourself and how you best work. Use these 5 tips as a springboard for keeping yourself focused on what’s important to you and your business.