That’s the sound of my dinner hitting the snow that lightly covered my backyard.
Why would I throw my dinner into the snow? Well, I was finishing up a bit of work. And making supper at the same time. The further my brain got into finishing Cursive’s 2015 editorial calendar, the farther it got from the fact that I had a veggie burger cooking on the stove. It wasn’t until the smoke hit my nostrils that my brain remembered I was attempting (yet again) to do two things at once.
And one of those things was cooking. Oopsies.
I ran into the kitchen, grabbed the pan, ran to the sliding glass door, skidded across the deck and winged the burger off the pan and into the snow. All before the smoke alarm went off (which would have surely woken my sleeping toddler, a much bigger disaster than a burnt dinner).
For so long, it’s seemed that multi-tasking has been a badge of honor. The ability to multi-task seems like a pre-requisite for everyone, regardless of how we spend our days. As marketers, we have to answer emails in the middle of writing insightful content and thinking of the next big idea. As parents, we have to make breakfast while reading books and dressing children. As responsible adults, we have to make phone calls while paying bills and tidying up the house. Far too many people don’t even go to the bathroom without their phones. Can you think of the last time you were doing just ONE thing? Truth is, we all have too many irons in the fire (and in my case, it was about to be a literal fire).
It turns out that multi-tasking isn’t necessarily good. In fact, it might be harming your productivity.
A Stanford University study showed that those who frequently multitask are hindered by the very thing they think is helping them.
As they studied both high- and low-frequency multi-taskers, they found that those who frequently multi-tasked were actually less efficient. “They couldn’t help thinking about the tasks they weren’t doing.” says researcher Eyal Ophir.
“They’re suckers for irrelevancy” echoes Professor Clifford Nass, “Everything distracts them.”
There might be no way to shorten your to-do list, but consider that if the biggest reason you’re multi-tasking is to save time, yet you’re not actually saving time. So what’s the point?
Knowing that it might be possible to be more effective at accomplishing each item on your list if you focus on one thing and check it off before moving on, it might be time rethink the way you work. Creating your own methods of organization and shortcuts for accomplishing time-consuming tasks can help.
Concentrating on what’s actually important is my biggest work-related personal goal this year. I guess I’ll have to give up the multi-tasking (and perhaps concentrate more on my cooking skills).
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