Multi-Tasking & Multiple Mistakes

Mistakes happen.  Sometimes it’s unavoidable but I’m stuck by how often we make mistakes simply because we are distracted by thinking of several things at once.  Somehow, the idea of “multi-tasking” became the buzz word a few years ago for being a superior performer.  “Ability to multi-task” became a common job interview question and key criteria for hire.  If we were able to master running from task to task we were suppose to be better than our colleagues.  An interesting skill but is it really effective or even efficient?

Nine Minutes to Refocus

Step back and watch yourself on a typical busy day.  What happens when phones are ringing, people are coming by your office, your computer screen is flashing and the cell phone is beeping at you.  Yes, you can jump back and forth but your ability to concentrate is greatly reduced.  The research (and our own observations) show clearly that it actually takes between 9 – 15 minutes to refocus to your original place when you have been interrupted.  Sometimes, that’s perfectly fine for simple tasks but for anything that needs concentration, creativity and focus that’s a lot of time trying to get back to where you left off.  The ripple effect is significant . . . we make more mistakes; feel more stressed because we’re not getting anything done well and the sense of enjoyment on a job well-done is often gone.

Five Ways to Avoid Multi-Tasking

Resist the temptation to multi-task by practicing concentrating on one thing at a time – especially anything that is important to your work and your employer.  Be truly present in the moment by doing these five things:

Bodie Gold Town

Know when you are at your best during the day (morning, afternoon, evening, late night).
“Chuck” your time by setting aside blocks of time to concentrate on certain tasks.
Don’t read your email early in the morning (it will distract you!).
Be more realistic about how much time a task will actually take.Close your eyes when talking on the phone (you will naturally be much more present).
And finally (my favorite) take at least 3 things off your “to-do” list today.  You can’t do it all and that’s okay!
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