Yes, I admit it. I am an admitted doer-of-14-things-at-once addict. I text, put make up on, and drive at the same time. I read email, schedule conference calls and check Twitter while Googling potential keynote speakers and training subjects in one swoop. I help one kid with homework while scolding another for forgetting his at school, chat with my daughter on the phone, and run the puppy out of the kitchen all while preparing dinner. Is this normal?
For most women, yes, it is. We are the masters of multi-tasking. Truth be told, you can’t live in this day and age without having some multi-tasking skills. But…and that’s a big but (ahem, pardon the pun)…by constantly multi-tasking we are cheating ourselves, our kids, and our performance.
We tend to believe that the human brain is this super powerhouse able to compute whatever we throw at it in as many directions as we please. However. according to recent studies at the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University, neuroscientists have shown that “a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once”.
Don’t believe it? Try this: Silently start counting backwards from 20. Now, out loud, say exactly what you see in your surroundings. What happened to your counting?
Penelope Trunk, a favorite blogger and columnist with the Boston Globe, has a great article in which she summarizes 10 Tps For Time Management in a Multitasking World. Here are ten important tips to get a better handle on your work and focus to improve productivity:
- 1. Don’t leave email sitting in your in box. – Organize in folders, when you check your email take action immediately by scheduling to calendar, replying, or moving to your to-do list if it needs more thought.
2. Admit multitasking is bad. – We went over this. The first step in getting help is admitting there is a problem.
3. Do the most important thing first. – Organize yourself the night before and prioritize. Focus on this one thing until it’s complete.
4. Check your email on a schedule. – You don’t have to answer according to everyone else’s schedule unless it’s truly urgent. Once you get in the habit of replying on a more consistent basis your contacts will adjust to your non-reactive replies.
5. Keep web site addresses organized. – Use bookmarks, bookmarklets, tags, and social bookmarking sites like Del.icio.us or Foxmarks to keep frequently used sites within a click or two.
6. Know when you work best. – Are you a morning person? Schedule your most important tasks for when you are most productive.
7. Think about keystrokes. – Learn keyboard shortcuts. Hitting and to copy and paste may seem like nothing, but it cuts back on waiting for your computer to bring up drop down menus, clicking and clicking again. Or maybe it’s just me that is so impatient.
8. Make it easy to get started. – Easily overwhelmed by big projects? Baby steps. Break it down so it doesn’t look so daunting and you’ll find yourself making progress.
9. Organize your to-do list every day. - I like to write mine out by hand and keep it nearby so I can have the satisfaction of putting a big fat line through each task I have completed.
10. Dare to be slow. - A good time manager does not react to every circumstance that shows up on the spot. Take the time to use your head, think it through, and respond (not react) appropriately. You’ll find by doing this you won’t have to re-address the situation as often.
Personally, I have gotten so bad that I am constantly asking myself what else I could be doing right now to get more done in this moment?”. I then immediately add that task to what I am doing. I will lay down at night to sleep and drift off thinking of more things that I should be doing, dream about it, and wake up thinking of my to-do list. It’s a sick cycle that I am, right now, committing to stop. My kids deserve my devoted attention. My work deserves my focused attention to produce top results. And my driving definitely needs my attention more on the road. Just ask my Insurance Agent!
Are you a multitasking addict? How do you handle your time management? Share your tips with the other addicts of the blogosphere here!