5 Productivity Tips Your Mind Will Love You For

Multi-tasking. We wear the word like a badge of honour. Being more productive and able to do multiple things at the same time has been considered a mandatory in the workplace ever since I can remember.

And I’ve always been proud of that skill. As a Public Relations Consultant, whose very job depended on it, I had to be able to answer phone calls, manage multiple events and issues in my head at the same time and be able to direct and oversee projects while simultaneously considering the competing needs of multiple stakeholders with seamless switching from task to task.

Really, don’t we all?

No matter what field of work you are in, there are very few in the office environment where we aren’t working on multiple projects in multiple ways at the same time.

So what’s all this talk now about how no one can really multitask, and multitasking is making us less smart and is actually causing us to waste time, not save it?

Make the most of your time by switching to the task at hand and leave multitasking in the past.Click To Tweet

A quick look in the dictionary defines multi-tasking as “the simultaneous execution of more than one task at a time by a single person.”

Let’s think about that.

That would be like chewing gum and walking at the same time, right?

Or is it more like reading and talking at the same time?

Or is it really more like driving and listening to the radio at the same time…?

Hang on, I’m confused. I can multi-task. Heck, I can do all those things at the same time, so what’s the problem here?

It turns out we were actually mono-tasking all along!

Neuroscience research tells us that the brain actually doesn’t do – and is unable to do—multiple tasks simultaneously. It’s just that amazing brain of ours is switching from task to task so quickly that it seems like we are completing more than one task at a time. It’s actually “task-switching” not “multi-tasking.”

I get it.

So if I tried to read two books at the same time and read one word from each – or even one line from each – and constantly switched back and forth between each word or line from the two different books, it would take my brain some time to process the switch of the storyline each time.

Multitasking actually slows you down. Try mono-tasking and watch your productivity improveClick To Tweet

But what about the driving and the listening to the radio thing.

That’s different.

It’s using two different parts of the brain. AND, it’s a simple and repetitive task (like driving, or walking, or washing dishes) that we can do without thinking about. That’s why we can add in an activity that requires thinking at the same time when the other one doesn’t require thinking.

Oh! Hang on – Facebook messenger just beeped me while I was researching this article – (leave the page I’m working on, check Facebook, remember what I was writing about, write about how I was interrupted while I was multi-tasking while I was writing an article about multi-tasking…)

Ok, I’m back.

How often does that happen to you in the run of the day?

Let’s get back to my point:

It seems that I actually can’t fully THINK about two things at the same time. You know those annoying people who are looking at you while you’re speaking with them, yet their eyes are darting all over the room; they are nodding but clearly, their brains are somewhere else? They don’t appear to be really hearing what you’re saying, and are instead thinking about something else?

Or how about riding a bike at the gym while reading a book at the same time. Can you do that? You know the people who do – they are riding their bike — somewhat leisurely – and appear to be absorbing their reading material at the same time. But how about those people at the gym who are clearly training for the next Tour de France. Are they reading and cycling at the same time? Nope. Notice next time.

If you’re really focused on training hard, it is near impossible to fully absorb reading material at the same time. They may be able to listen to music in the background, but if they have to choose one thing to concentrate on – they are focused on their training.

So really, the fact is your mind can only fully concentrate on one thing at a time. Like your computer when it’s installing updates and working on something else in the background – it can’t seem to open your email in a timely fashion because it’s too busy installing the latest update from Microsoft or Apple.

Just like computers, multitasking actually slows us down.

So what if we mono-tasked? What if your resume read:

“Able to work on one thing at a time.”

Here’s the thing: I challenge you to focus on working on a single task at a time for longer periods of time in your work day and see if you actually become more productive.

Try it!  Here are five tips to get you started on effective mono-tasking so you can BOOST your productivity and give that poor task-switching mind of yours a break:

  1. Read email in designated time blocks during the day instead of as a steady “interrupt you every split second” constant flow of content.
  2. Complete a task to the best of your ability before putting it down to focus on another one.
  3. Focus on that teleconference you actually said you’d be in so you can provide advice and input the first time instead of having to review notes afterward and essentially take twice as long to participate.
  4. Designate certain times of the day or days of the week to prioritize tasks you don’t like to do so you are guaranteed to get them done and don’t require multi-tasking to alleviate the boredom.
  5. Honour meeting times with associates and focus on them entirely during that time.

BONUS SIDE EFFECTS: If you actually give people your full attention, these people will

  1. Feel Valued
  2. Think you’re a better leader/employee
  3. Like you more

And YOU might just become more productive.

Susan Elford

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Personal Balance Equation Workbook ABOUT SUSAN ELFORD

Susan Elford is a PR Strategist & Leadership Coach who especially loves to work with people who want it all: a fulfilling career or business while living a balanced life. Susan helps her clients get real about their strengths and celebrate and promote them so they get more of what they want: success at work; success in business & success in life.

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