We’ve all heard that multitasking is a good thing. In fact doing only one thing at a time, seems wasteful in today’s society. When I was in university I dubbed myself a multitasking genius as I usually cooked dinner, did homework, and watched my TV shows at the same time! In my mind I was killing it at multitasking. But after years of multitasking I realized,
Our brains aren’t built to multitask, instead they are built to focus on one thing at a time.
In fact what we know as multitasking is actually task switching and this is actually terrible! Every time we switch between tasks we waste valuable time and brain power as we have to remember where we left off, and then get back in the zone to complete the task. This is similar to what happens when you use your smart phone to switch back and forth between applications. For example if you switch from Instagram to Twitter to your internet browser, you would notice that it takes a longer time for the browser to load. This is the same with humans: It takes a while to really get back to your mojo if you constantly switch back and forth between tasks.
Apart from reduced productivity, research has found that multitasking lowers the IQ and can even damage the brain.
So pretty much, multitasking is not the best way to get things done. But it is very tempting to multitask because of all the distractions around us. So how do I avoid multitasking?
- Set fewer goals:
To do lists are great; but the longer they get, the less likely you are to actually accomplish anything. I aim to accomplish 2 or 3 goals for the day. With fewer things on my mind, my brain can focus on accomplishing those things rather than wasting brain power switching between tasks.
- Zero distractions:
Let’s face it, for most of us, our smart phones have become leashes; we can’t get away from social media, emails, and phone calls. So even when we want to focus on doing one thing, we find ourselves replying emails or liking pictures on Instagram. For me, the only way to avoid being distracted is to make sure my phone is set on silent and if needed, removed from the room I am working in. Blocking out all distractions, will allow you to get in the zone and prevent task switching, which slows us down!
- Time Management:
I set time limits for each tasks and time myself while performing the tasks. If I notice I am taking way more time than I should on a task, then I try to work faster. I also make sure to create time in the day to check my social media and emails, that way I am not tempted to check those, when I actually need to do work. For me, the best way to do it is to schedule 10 mins breaks for every 1 hour spent working. During these breaks, I grab snacks and reply texts and emails. A great time tracking app I use is Toogl. With this you can actually track how much time you spend on each task, and try to improve on that.
Admittedly, this is very hard, and time management is something that I (and most people) struggle with. Today there are distractions all around us, and the only way we can lead a balanced life is to find ways to manage our time effectively, because time is our greatest resource!
How do you take control of your time?