The Terrible Two: Part 2

Tackling Productivity’s Two Biggest Roadblocks

When it comes to focusing your attention and getting work done, there are two enemies which can stand in your way: Procrastination and Multitasking.

Our last blog reviewed procrastination and offered some top tips for tackling this roadblock. This blog looks at the other partner in crime…multi-tasking.

The Multi-tasking Myth. Why multi-tasking doesn’t work.Multi-tasking Pic 1

The act of switching between multiple tasks is something we do every day… but science tells us it does not work.

Multi-tasking is when we focus on many things at once, and try to give our attention to many activities. This means the amount of thought and energy we have available to do each activity is considerably less than if we focused on one thing at a time.

“Rather than having a stretchable balloon of attention to deploy in tandem, we have a narrow, fixed pipeline to allot. Instead of splitting it, we actually switch rapidly. Continual switching saps attention from full, concentrated engagement.” 

– Daniel Goleman (Psychologist and Science Journalist)

When we place too many demands on our Pre-Frontal Cortex (the area of our brain primarily responsible for decision-making and problem-solving), it compromises our ability to think clearly and work effectively. This means when we multi-task we are compromising our ability to do the work and putting quality results at risk.

Multi-tasking Pic 2

What Can I Do?

1. Avoid multi-tasking at the start of the day

When you arrive at work in the morning, be assertive and disciplined with yourself.

Avoid the urge to immediately open emails and begin multiple tasks. Rather, spend 10 minutes making a list of priorities for that day. This will help you to determine which tasks are truly important and which tasks only feel urgent.

2. Choose the priority which requires the most mental energy

Start the day with those tasks that require the most concentration and focus. This will reduce the amount of complex thinking you need to do in the afternoon (when you have less mental energy).

Top Tip!

Making a list can be very useful. To make your list one that is effective and inspires action, ensure you begin each item with a verb.Multi-tasking Pic 3

  • Collect safety data
  • Integrate corporate strategy
  • Summarise key findings

Sources

Friedman, R. (2014). How to spend the first 10 minutes of your day. Harvard Business Review. Available online via https://hbr.org/2014/06/how-to-spend-the-first-10-minutes-of-your-day

Canter, C. (2015). In search of SuperMind. Australia: Human Synergistics. Available online via http://www.extreme-thinking.com/docs/In-Search-of-SuperMind.pdf

 - Alexandra Walsh (LFCS Associate Consultant)

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