As I sat down to write this post, I opened up WordPress, then I opened up another tab and went to Twitter, intending to come back to WordPress, and then spend some time on Twitter. If I had continued, I would probably have opened up another tab for Facebook, and might have wandered around Pinterest for a little while as well. Sound familiar? We live in a world of multitasking, and it is hurting us.
I am no exception. I am a mom, which requires some multitasking occasionally… OK, a lot of the time. I run a home business, I have a lot of responsibilities at church, and I’m participating in a co-op preschool with my four year old. I have a lot of reasons to multitask my time.
The problem is that it causes more harm than good. Doing many things at a time isn’t actually helping. It’s bad time management, it’s terribly unproductive, and can actually harm your brain.
Research conducted at Stanford University compared gifted multitaskers, to those who were not proficient multitaskers. You can find more details about it here. Those who were not multitasking outperformed the multitaskers every time. Those who regularly multitasked their time could not filter out unnecessary information, and as a result, could not perform the tasks at hand as well.
The University of Sussex released research that shows multitasking may actually be changing the brain:
“A study published today (24 September) reveals that people who frequently use several media devices at the same time have lower grey-matter density in one particular region of the brain compared to those who use just one device occasionally.
The research supports earlier studies showing connections between high media-multitasking activity and poor attention in the face of distractions, along with emotional problems such as depression and anxiety.”
Check out the links. They’re pretty interesting reads.
The point is, if you want to get something accomplished, choose one task. Focus on finishing that task. Make sure the task that you choose is actually something that is realistic to accomplish in the time frame that you have. You will also need to gauge the amount of energy that you have.
Say you have twenty minutes to get something done. You are emotionally and mentally drained, but you feel OK physically. Should you write an essay, or go exercise? Realistically, you won’t be able to get much done on that essay in that short amount of time. However, you could get a really great workout into your day.
You also need to keep in mind, you will need to plan ahead in order to do this. If the essay is due in 20 minutes… well, you take procrastination to the extreme, but that is a topic for another day. Be realistic about your time and energy, then finish the task. You will feel better when you have one less thing to think about.
So why am I bringing this up now? I recently read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and it got me thinking about how much time we actually waste trying to “multitask”. It is a great book, and I have been so much more productive in my daily goals since reading it. I don’t get anything from this suggestion. It’s just a book that has helped me to be a more productive person. You should give it a read when you get the chance.
So here is my advice: Take one thing at a time. You will feel better. There will be a weight lifted off your shoulders every time you cross something off your to-do list. Give it an experiment for a week, or a month, or the rest of your life.
Let me know how it goes in the comments. I would love to hear from you.