Monday Motivation - Feed Your Focus: Break the Habit of Multi-Tasking


Good Morning – It is Monday; Hallelujah 😊! I hope you had a GREAT weekend. I hope you were able to focus on the good things and experience joy in being alive! As the quote from Ralph S Marston, Jr. states, “Pay attention to what is good about your life. Rather than worrying about what you don’t have; seek to make the best of all the good things you do have. There are a lot of things right with your life. Give your attention to them and they will grow.”

We are heading into the back end of January already.Life has been moving fast and, to me, feeling like, “full speed ahead”, how about you? As a result of the multitude of things I am attempting to get done each day, I find myself on a path of “attempting” to multitask more than ever before. Anyone else in the same boat? As I have been settling into that behavior, I realize that there are times (many more than I would like to admit) that I am not as productive as I would like to be. When I slow down enough to contemplate this, I ask myself this question, “is all of this multitasking making me more productive, or is there a better way?” So, I went back to re-acquaint myself with all the research on the topic of “distractions and multitasking” and had many “aha” moments about why, at the end of the day, I was feeling more distracted, tired and less productive from all the “task switching”, I was doing throughout the day. Although this behavior was done with a true desire to be more productive because I care about the outcomes I achieve; I realized, at the end of the day, I was sabotaging myself and my output.

If asked, many of us would state that we believe we are good at multitasking; in fact, we think it is one of our strengths. Logically, it does seem like a great way to get a lot done all at once; but, while it may seem like you are accomplishing many things, studies have shown that our brains are not nearly as good at handling multiple tasks like we think. Some research even suggests that multitasking takes a SERIOUS toll on productivity, reducing it by as much as 40 percent because of the mental blocks created when people switch tasks – YIKES!! Another tidbit of information suggests that when our attention is completely derailed, research shows that it can take 20 minutes to refocus.

Let’s level set quickly on a definition of multitasking. It is performing two or more tasks simultaneously, switching back and forth between tasks, and/or performing several tasks in rapid succession, giving less than 100% of your attention at a time. Research conducted at Stanford University found that when you are multitasking, you are less productive than doing a single thing at a time. They found that people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of information (multitaskers):

  • have trouble paying attention, recalling information or switching from one job to another, as well as, those who complete only one task at a time,

  • heavy multitaskers were less mentally organized and even when trying to focus on a single task their brains were less effective and efficient, and

  • multitaskers make more mistakes and retained less information.

Multitasking changes the way our brain works. So, is there no hope if you have been a heavy multitasker and want to change this habit? Current research suggests that people who stop multitasking will be able to change this trajectory and perform better.

Knowing that multitasking is not good for you, what are some things you can do to minimize the negative impacts of multitasking and regain control? Following are some suggestions that I found reading various articles about strategies to overcome the distractions caused by multitasking:

  • Limit the number of things you are juggling at any given time to just two tasks,

  • Implement the “20-minute rule”. Instead of switching back and forth from one task to another, try to devote your attention for 20 minutes before switching to the next task,

  • Create a distraction-free environment where you can “hunker down” and focus on your most important, complex tasks. Use distraction blocks on your computer; put on noise cancelling headphones, turn off/mute notifications on your phone,

  • Set three daily intentions. Working with greater intent helps you focus on what is important. In morning ask yourself which three things you must accomplish by day’s end. Put those on one list; and put all other items on a separate list.

  • Work on hard stuff. Sometimes distractions come because you are not challenged by the work you are doing in the moment. Prioritize those things that are more challenging. Focus your initial efforts on those, so that you are bringing your “best brain” to the task.

  • Set an artificial project deadline. Sometimes when you work on things that don’t have a looming deadline, it can take longer to do them. Thus, allowing yourself to be distracted more often. If you introduce a sense of urgency and a deadline to these tasks, you may have a better chance of staying focused.

We are all prone to multitasking. Our minds crave distraction; but this is not a habit that you want to indulge. It slows you down and decreases the quality of your work. Set yourself up for success by adopting some strategies (that will work for you) to block distractions ahead of time, work with greater intention and reclaim your brain! You will find that you will increase your productivity, effectiveness and have more energy as a result!

Have a GREAT day and a GREAT week.

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