Is there a 12 Step Group for Multitaskers? There probably should be.
“Hi, my name is Ron. I’m a multitasker.”
I talk about multitasking a lot with my employees, mostly trying to dissuade them from trying. People (including me) are finally waking up to realize that multitasking is not really a thing. The human brain does not have the ability to truly focus on more than one thing at a time and do it well. Outside of the automatic functions of your brain (such as walking, talking, and breathing), you cannot do serious work or even play with your kids right if you’re trying to concentrate more than one thing at a time.
The human brain cannot multitask. That’s a fact borne out by studies conducted by many scientific organizations and educational institutions such as Stanford University. If you still think you can, I encourage you to read Deep Work or The One Thing. Or Google it. Then accept that fact so that you can learn to be more productive and break the multitasking habit. And if you want to be excellent at marketing your small business, stopping multitasking will give you a significant advantage over those business owners too distracted to do deep work.
Here’s a short list of things you can do to stop multitasking:
* Turn Off the Noise – Noise is anything that distracts you from the thing that you’re currently doing. Turn off your cell phone, turn off your email, turn off the TV and truly focus on that book you’re trying to read. Turn it all off and truly focus on that work you’re doing for your clients. Turn it off and really focus on playing with your son for fifteen minutes. And for goodness sake, turn it all off while you’re enjoying dinner with your family. Like you, I’ve been at a restaurant and witnessed 4 people sitting at a table, staring down at their phones and not talking. It’s a shame, really.
* Create To-Do Lists – When it comes to stopping yourself from multitasking, the best friend you have is your to-do list. Include everything you need and should do in a day on your to-do list so that you can know what you’re facing. You may find you do not have time to watch that rerun of Friends or spend all that “networking” time on Facebook. Chet Holmes recommends you have no more than 6 things on your daily list—everything else goes on a separate list. Others recommend 5 or even 1. However many you decide on, it shouldn’t be so long that you can’t get it all done.
* Prioritize the Lists – Once you create a to-do list it’s important to put it in order of priority. Gary Keller says the operative word is “priority” (singular), not “priorities” (plural). At any given moment, there’s only one thing you need to be doing. Anything with a due date is easier to put into priority but remember to put yourself up at the top of the list. Your health, your family, and your life are more important than anything else. It’s important to understand this as you set up your avoidance systems to multitasking.
* Set up Schedules and Systems to Avoid Multitasking – Use your list to set up a calendar and task reminder system that will help you see how productive you are. You want to actually track the time you spend on each thing so that you can get really good at saying yes or no to new things because you know how much time you really have.
* Learn the Most Effective Way to Use Your Calendar – Your calendar isn’t just for work or doctor appointments. Your calendar can be used as a to-do list. Use something like Google Calendar so that you can easily see everything at a glance for any given day. You can even set up reminders for yourself. Schedule personal and business items on the same calendar, remembering how important it is to put yourself first.
* First Things First – When you look at your calendar, make sure you set things up by time. Always give yourself more time for each thing than you think you need. A good rule of thumb is to work out how long you think it will take and multiply it by 1.5 to get a better time. If you finish before your time is up, that’s great. Take some time out to walk around, read a book, and clear your mind. Again, Gary Keller recommends Time Blocking. For more information on Time Blocking, go here.
* Practice Makes Perfect – The more you learn to tune out interruptions and stop trying to do everything at once, the more you’ll like focusing on one thing at a time. You’ll find that you get more done, have more free time, and improve your outlook exponentially.
Multitasking is not something you want to do. You cannot become good at it. Don’t tell people you’re a good multitasker; you’re not. No one is. You just think you are. Try putting the things in place that are on this list and track your progress, and you’ll see that you are far more productive when you break the multitasking habit than you were before.
If you catch yourself multitasking, stop it! And if you need more help, consider Bob Newhart’s advice here:
That’s what I think. What are your thoughts on the subject?