Monday, June 27, 2016

Multitasking is a farce! And you should stop doing it.

One of my worst habits of all time is jumping from task to task without fully completing one first.  It's something I've been engaged in for years.  I recall the time when I was being trained after getting my first dream job.  The girl training me noticed my behavior and calmly suggested that I should finish what I was working on before taking on the next task.  Her words never left me.

But, at the same time, I rarely applied her advice.  I continued to work frantically in an unproductive manner that fueled my disorganization and short attention span.  I self-diagnosed myself as having Attention Deficit Disorder and assumed there was nothing I could do about it.
As time passed, I seemed to get more scattered and disorganized.  In my position, people would often call or visit the office with random assignments and questions.  With each interruption, I dropped what I was doing and added another task to the list.  My workdays eventually became one long game of whack a mole.

I don't even want to talk about the stress levels involved with operating like this long term.  You feel like you never actually get anything done.  All of those open action items on your list perpetually haunts you.  I once believed that my ability to quickly switch tasks was taking my productivity to the next level.  Little did I know that I was doing more harm than good.

When I multitasked, the lie I was telling myself was that I could get more done in less time.  But at the end of the work day, my to-do list didn't reflect this new reality.  I thought it was just me.  I've since learned that multitasking ruins everything.  Your IQ drops, your stress levels rise, and your brain isn't able to function properly.  You DO NOT get more done by multitasking, you are only making things worse.

"The person who chases two rabbits catches neither." -Confucious

As a part of my personal development journey, I read and listened to books that would hopefully give me a slight edge on life.  On the top of my list were books on productivity, time management, and execution.  Then I ventured into the world of mental focus through the practice of meditation and everything changed!

Instead of trying to juggle as many balls as humanly possible, I did the exact opposite.  The first rule I implemented was to remove everything from my desk except what I was working on at the moment. Secondly, I worked on 1 action at a time until completion (or until I couldn't do anything further with it). No jumping to another task until I was done.  When interruptions happened, I would focus on the conversation, question or task, then immediately returned to what I was doing pre-interruption.

To increase my likelihood of maintaining focus, I employed a few tricks.  Keeping the desk clear was one of them.  Sometimes, I'd turn off email notifications.  When I have to stay focused for a long period of time, I play meditation music in the background.  This worked exceptionally well. It gives my brain something to focus on so I don't get distracted easily.  Kinda like putting on a movie to entertain your child for a couple of hours.

Random thoughts still pop up, (especially thoughts of what else I should could be doing) but instead of chasing the thought, I chose to ignore it.  If I find it difficult to ignore the thoughts, then I know it's time to reinstitute morning meditation.  As I've stated before, meditation teaches you how to ignore the random thoughts.  Instead, you focus on the breath.  By paying attention to your breathing, you create a level of stillness and concentration that transforms your life.

I'll never forget the time I practiced the principles of meditation throughout the day. As I worked, I tried to "stay with the breath." This gave me incredible results.  Productivity was through the roof!  My natural tendency towards multitasking still exists, so unless I'm intentional with maintaining focus, things will fall apart again.

 If you've believed the lie that being a multitasker is something of value, I invite you to practice single-minded focus as a new discipline.  You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you do one thing at a time.

  1. Love this! I'll be instituting #tablessthursday ASAP!