Finding Focus in a Multitasking World

Multitasking is the ability to accomplish several tasks simultaneously. Society encourages multitasking with advanced technology, products and services that allow us to “do more” and “go faster.” Now that multitasking has become the norm, expectations for higher productivity keep rising as well. However, multi-tasking can often result in confusion, lower productivity and sometimes lower quality of work.

Although it may seem appealing to check more items of the daily task list in less time, the problem with multitasking is the lack of focus that can coincide with it. Although we may get everything done, it is not necessarily done to the best of our ability. This can leave us with more stress, and less satisfaction with our work.

Juggling tasks that require creative, cognitive problem solving skills further aggravate the negative impacts of multitasking.  The answer is to regain to lost art of focus. Getting tasks accomplished with increased focus is the key to producing our best work. Following are a few recommendations to tame the multitasking monster:

Organize your day – Organizing your head into focused blocks of sixty minutes to three hours of work is your basic step. This is where you need to choose a theme for each time block. It could be marketing, production, problem solving, planning, design or whatever pertains to your profession. You should be able to group your daily tasks by these themes and execute those relating to each theme in the allotted block of time. When other thoughts or ideas pop up during your allotted time block, make sure to have a handy notebook or notes screen where you can jot them down, then go back to what you are currently doing.

Control external interruptions as much as possible. Trying to respond to every email, phone call or guest dropping by can break your focus and trigger context switching delay. The best way to prevent this is to inform your colleagues when privacy is needed, and discipline yourself to check email and phone calls at specific, regular intervals during the day instead of responding to every message as it arrives.  

Set a space to focus – Our physical surrounding can have great impact on our ability to focus. For those working remotely, make sure to create a physical space or work area separate from your living area. When you enter this space, it cues your brain that you are in work mode. For those in the office, arrange your work area to minimize any external distractions as much as possible. Keep your desk or workspace clean so that you are able to spread out work for each task without piles of paper, files or other objects from different tasks clouding your focus on the project at hand.  

As we break the vicious multitasking cycle and maximize our focus, we can look forward to minimized distractions, less stress and a higher satisfaction in our quality of work and accomplishments.

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