I have multitasked for as long as I can remember. I used to pride myself on being able to do so many things at one time. I have a pile of books on my nightstand, all of which I am in the midst of reading. I have two computers on my dining room table where I work, and often both are up and running as I shift between work commitments and projects.
Even on one computer, I almost always have multiple internet tabs open: links I want to read, emails that need a response, work tasks that need to be addressed, etc. And then there are Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and more, waiting for my time and attention.
And yet, when I divide my attention between various projects, nothing gets my full attention. That includes my home tasks too. When I am running back and forth between making dinner and playing a game with my kids, neither task is getting my full attention. There’s always the risk something will burn or bubble over on the stove, and the kids will get impatient with a mom who is constantly running around and not enjoying the time we have together.
As I work to stop multitasking I have learned a few things:
- I can get more done when I stick with one task at a time.
I thought I was getting more done by having multiple projects going at a time. In theory, it makes sense to be chipping away at multiple things during the day. However, when I do this, regardless of what project I have going at the time, my mind is thinking about the next task I want to do or the next step I need to take on an unrelated task.
When I open one task and work on it till completion (whether completion of a particular task or the entire project), I can fully commit to what I am doing and actually get something crossed off my to-do list.
- I do a better job when my mind is fully focused on the particular task at hand
This goes along with point number one, but not only do I get more done when I do one thing at a time, but my mind can be fully engaged. I don’t have to be brainstorming about ways to solve another issue, because I know that that is not what I am working on right now. I can focus on the present issue and keep my mind focused on that. I can brainstorm innovations and solve issues on my current project, and all the ideas floating around in my head are related and more likely to produce relevant and helpful resolutions! That in turn produces better quality work and means I don’t have to worry about ways to improve this task when I move to the next.
- I have less stress!
A wonderful side effect of just focusing on one thing at a time is less stress! This is an area when I could definitely use some benefit; what about you? Could you use less stress in your life? I imagine if we are honest, we would all admit that less stress would be a great benefit to our health and life in general.
By focusing on one issue, my mind is freed up from the other tasks and projects that await my attention. I can fully devote my attention and not worry about what else I need to accomplish later.
So, what about you? Do you multitask? Have you tried focusing on one issue at a time and seeing how your day improves?
I have little kids, and even while working on this blog post there were multiple interruptions and things demanding my time and attention, but each time I came back to this task. So while multitasking to some degree is part of life, limiting the simultaneous projects demanding my time and attention is something I can choose to control. It is something I am still working to master, but I am pleased with how my days improve when I am not jumping back and forth from topic to topic, project to project, and instead, get to fully be wherever I am.
Try it out and let us know what you think!