It’s become the way I work. Multiple windows open on my desktop. My cell phone honks (that’s my current text alert ringtone), and I immediately glance down to see what the text is. Echofon on my desktop “growls” to show me in a translucent popup window @journeygal’s latest tweet. Apple Mail suddenly has a bright red “2” on top of its icon in the dock indicating new email.
With each alert, I shift focus and then attempt to come back to… uh, what was I doing in the first place? Exactly. That’s the problem. Multi-tasking (which I’m very good at for knocking out meaningless tasks, easy to dispose of to-do’s, and net errands) is actually robbing me of genuine, focused productivity and creation.
I bet you’re suffering too, and you didn’t know it.
My attention was caught when I was catching up on blogs in Reeder the other day by this linked article in the Harvard Business Review. Consider the following excerpts and references:
- A study showed that people distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQs.
- Doing several things at once is a trick we play on ourselves, thinking we’re getting more done. In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40%. We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task, rapidly shifting from one thing to another, interrupting ourselves unproductively, and losing time in the process.
- Research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at doing several things at once than light multitaskers.
- Workers distracted by email and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers, new research has claimed.
So… for the past two weeks, I’ve been failing forward in limiting my multi-tasking. Here are some things I’ve been trying to implement:
- I’ve been resisting the urge to answer my cell phone when I’m doing focused work.
- I’m actually using with success some task management apps.
- I am scheduling time for social media such as Twitter and Facebook rather than jumping to them and getting lost there for several minutes.
- I am scheduling less appointments with people. Sounds bad, I know, but my calendar was controlled by others rather than me shaping my calendar. You can’t lead like that.
I haven’t been doing things consistently enough to have any reflections, but all six of the observations at theHBR article sound so enviable that I’m going to keep failing forward until I’ve rewired my brain from attempting to do too many things simultaneously.
For additional research and reading on this subject, try these articles:
- How to NOT Multi-Task – Work Simpler and Saner
- Work Smart: Stop Multitasking and Start Doing One Thing Really Well
- Multitasking is Madness. 10 Tips to Stop.