Multi-tasking, once thought of as an attribute has now turned into a curse. With three kids in five years, ours was a busy house. I also was working part – full time in our family business and the dad had a demanding job. So, in the course of a day, as so many others can relate to, there were a lot of balls in the air; juggling meals, chores, laundry, phone calls, accounting, school, after school, cleaning, home work, moving cattle. You get the idea as many of you are doing the same.
So we became skilled at doing many things at once. Talking on the phone, cooking, throwing in a load of laundry, answering questions, and checking e-mails can easily be done at the same time. There is the occasional phenomenon of walking into the living room during one of these episodes and wondering,. . . I came in here for what? So at the end of the day we have got a lot of things done. But now I ponder, yes we are getting a lot done, but how well are we doing these tasks. And do we have the ability to actually focus on one project at a time and complete it. My husband would be quick to answer a no to that one. And certainly men and women deal with these differently.
Michelle Cederberg, work life energy expert from Calgary, says men’s brains are like waffles and women’s like spaghetti. So for men their projects are more compartmentalized and focussed. Whereas, women’s focus can dart all over the place.
She says that on the positive side, “Multi-tasking can certainly help us to get a lot of things done at once and that can be a good thing as long as it does not add to your stress.” She also suggests that it can make us feel good, as if we are accomplishing more with our time.
But on the negative side, “ Having too many ‘undone tasks’ on the go can actually add to your mind-clutter and drain your energy as you try to keep track of what’s what.” Cederberg also says that in actuality our productivity is higher when we focus on one thing at a time.
So what are some ways we can improve our focus and stick-to-it-ness if we found we have become somewhat “scattered”? One of the strategies Cederberg suggests is creating a to do list. She recommends that the list include the tasks you need to get accomplished in the time you have. “Keep the list manageable ( 4 – 7 items) and make sure you allot a reasonable amount of time to each task.” She recommends that you keep the list in site and select the first item and focus on completing it. If your focus wanders to other tasks, revisit the list and remind yourself what task you are on. “Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find your mind wandering to other tasks. Just be aware it is happening and get back on track.” If you don’t get the list all done, celebrate what you did accomplish and move the undone items to another list so your brain is freed up from remembering what you have to do.
Another recommendation of Cederberg’s is to break the big tasks down into smaller steps. One tool to help with this is a timer set for 10 minutes. When that is done you can switch. “We can get an awful lot accomplished in 10 minute efforts, she says.
She also says we can decrease multi-tasking if we have improved systems at home and work. “Take the time to get organized, in 10 minute intervals if you have to, and then when new tasks come your way, tackle them immediately.” She concludes that procrastination today leads to multi-tasking and busyness tomorrow.
Perhaps, avoiding procrastinations should be the next topic.
“Multi-tasking can certainly help us to get a lot of things done at once,” Michelle Cederberg.