6 Tips to Minimize Your Multi-Tasking at Work

Multi-Tasking Leads to Greater Productivity

multi-tasking businesswomanMore information has been published recently regarding this common Multi-Tasking misconception. This widely held assumption is even built into many jobs and workplace environments.  What we know from research now is what we see as multi-tasking is actually rapid “switch-tasking.” The brain can only attend fully to one task at a time. If juggling two or more tasks requiring conscious attention, performance on all suffers. When put to the test in research studies, subjects find out quickly how lousy they really are when attempting it.

The rapid switching in and out of multiple tasks is not only inefficient, but highly stressful. Of course there are circumstances simply requiring this (ask any parent about it. An interesting aside; research has shown brain changes occur in pregnant women to prepare them to better deal with simultaneous demands the care for children brings), so I’m not suggesting you can eliminate multi-tasking in your life. However, it may be worth experimenting with other ways of accomplishing your various missions.  Bestselling author and researcher of business performance, Joseph Grenny, offers a few suggestions to help minimize distractions at work so you can be more free from the burden of multi-tasking

  1. Monitor emotions – Grenny states many office interruptions are automatically attended to without conscious awareness. We stop everything to check an email alert or answer the phone because feelings of anxiety or curiosity need to be relieved, not because it is truly necessary. Becoming aware of your feelings will help you break the habit of attending to interruptions only to relieve boredom, anxiety, loneliness, and so on.
  2. Take the easy wins – Free up mental energy by completing simpler, less time consuming tasks first.
  3. Structure solitude – Schedule time to “unplug” as much as is possible to concentrate on completing complex tasks. If you are not used to doing this, allow time to get over your “withdrawal symptoms”.
  4. Build your attention muscle – The more you “train” your attention, the more it will develop. Time how long you can maintain good attention and schedule lengthier solitude sessions as you progress.
  5. Take a problem for a walk – If your office is a difficult place to avoid interruptions, try taking an important problem on a walk. The exercise and different environment themselves might assist with problem solving.

Source: Harvard Business Review

In this video, Dr. Amit Sood, MD, MSc, FACP, Professor of Medicine – Mayo Clinic, notes multi-tasking is here to stay, but there are ways to make the most of it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nq4G2Yz4hpg&w=560&h=315]

Stanford University video on their multi-tasking research has found multi-taskers are distracted by extraneous information at higher levels, even when told the information is not useful for the completion of the assigned task. They’ve essentially trained themselves to pay attention to a lot of different things at once, even useless things and can’t help themselves. If this is you, try the tips from Joseph Grenny and Dr. Sood to see if you can reduce your “switch-tasking.”

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About VITAL WorkLife

VITAL WorkLife, Inc.™ is a national behavioral health consulting company providing support to individuals facing life’s challenges, while also assisting organizations in improving workplace productivity. This approach of helping employees and their families, while also guiding organizations, builds healthy, sustainable behaviors. For over 30 years, we have offered industry leading Employee Assistance Programs, specialized support, training and consulting for a wide variety of industries.

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Shawn Friday, MEd, LPC, CEAP

Shawn is a Senior Consultant for VITAL WorkLife. Shawn has an MEd degree in counseling from North Dakota State University, and is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Employee Assistance Professional. He has over 12 years of employee assistance experience and an additional 7 years as a counselor in a variety of settings. Shawn has expertise in the areas of anxiety and stress management, couples’ issues and critical incident stress management.