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Feeling Busy this Fall? Multitask away- or not.

Fall = busier. Enter multitasking.  It’s the way to do more things in less time, right?

Maybe not. Recently I read an article by Melissa Balmain entitled Confessions of a Recovering Multitasker.  Melissa writes, “imagine my surprise at learning that, technically, [multitasking] does not exist.  We can’t think about two tasks at once.  Instead, our brains ping-pong between them wasting precious seconds of time and causing errors to pile up”.

In the day, no matter how hard you try, does it ever seem possible to get through everything that you set out to do in the morning? Do you attempt to do two tasks – or more – at once?  Perhaps the reason for the failure is BECAUSE you are trying to do multiple things at one time.

In her article, Melissa writes of a phone conversation she had with a good friend while also trying to make dinner and the ensuing result was a burnt meal and a conversation that she could not remember.  I myself have had phone conversations such as these, where my attentions are distracted so far elsewhere, that it barely registers that my friend is telling me something that should require my undivided attention.  So, clearly, my efforts to try and accomplish more things in less time were fruitless, and just like Melissa, I was left feeling guilty and unaccomplished.

So what’s the solution? If we can’t multitask without the results being more unproductive than not, how on earth do we accomplish all that needs to be done?  The answer, counter-intuitive to many, is focusing on one single thing at a time. Try this experiment and let me know how you do. When you begin a task, such as writing a “typical” report that you write, estimate how long it will take. Write down your start time. Go about your business in the normal manner, answering calls, emails, etc. as you are doing the report. Write the end time. Now, another day try this again with a similar report.  Write down your start time. This time, commit to shutting off your email and turning off your ringer. Do not answer anyone who comes in unless they are in a true emergency situation. When you are finished, write down your end time. What is the difference? How does the first report on the first day compare with the estimate? How about the second day and the second report? Statistics and “real life” experiments that I have conducted show an average 50% time savings with single-tasking. How did you do?

Are you ready to save about half your time to have an ultra-productive fall? Relax, take a deep breath, and do things one step at a time.  You might start with re-designing your days on Oct. 18th! More info HERE.

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