Have you ever had this experience?…
You’re working on a project that requires creativity, such as drafting a report or working on budgets, and suddenly the phone rings, jolting you out of deep concentration. Even if you don’t answer the phone, it takes a few beats before you can re-anchor into what you were doing before.
That time lapse is your “mental CEO” shifting from one task, with a specific goal and set of “rules,” to another, with a completely different goal and set of rules. That shift takes time. The more complex the tasks, the longer the shift takes.
What else are you trying to do while reading this posting?
Sure, we can multitask. We might even believe we can do it without losing efficiency. But we would be fooling ourselves.
It has been proven in scientific studies that toggling between tasks slows the brain down. In effect, multitasking makes us momentarily stupid — unable to establish priorities, focus, or integrate anything new.
Have you ever tried to read your email while listening to a conference call? How about trying to have a serious conversation on your cell phone while driving?
Yes? Then you know that neither was done with your full presence or capacity. It’s as if you weren’t there for half of the time. You neither fully understood the emails nor fully integrated what the call offered. Too little of your consciousness was on driving – scary – and you couldn’t fully connect in the conversation.
We all know that multitasking has real costs. So why do we still do it?
It’s ingrained in our habits. All the “time-saving” devices of our technological age encourage us to be distracted and lose the ability to focus. And that’s a significant loss because focus is what brings prosperity. Distraction keeps us from it.
Focus means your full attention. Here are five daily practices to attain pinpointed focus and stop multitasking.
1. Clear your desk of anything unrelated to your current goal. Things command attention. The less you have before you, the less likely you’ll be distracted. If you are in an open environment like we are at Orbitz then schedule a conference room.
2. Schedule your time into blocks so that you can focus in on one individual task at a time. Include separate blocks for completing high payoff actions, emailing, working with clients, planning, etc. Then set sacred boundaries around those tasks. Complete one, then move on.
3. Do the most important thing first. High payoff actions are the things that will have the biggest positive impact on your success. What will bring you the results you want most quickly? Put that first, always.
4. Take short breaks away from technology between time blocks or tasks. Take a walk around the block, play music, do something physical or creative. This will clear your mind and help your mental CEO recalibrate to the next task.
5. Plan for tomorrow. Schedule 1 to 3 high payoff activities for the next business day.
Become a master single-tasker!
Take the next 30 days and replace your multitasking habits with these five daily practices and see how much more you accomplish and with less stress.