Multi-tasking is a myth. If you think that you are busy juggling multiple tasks, but end your day feeling unproductive, it is probably because multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain does not multi-task; it is not like a computer with multiple systems. The brain needs to attend to one task at a time – called sequential tasking. And so when you think you are multi-tasking, your brain is actually switching back in forth from one task to another, splitting one’s attention and slowing processing speed. Studies suggest that it takes the brain up to 50 percent more time to do two tasks at once vs. one at a time.
Solution: Give your full attention to one task at a time. Start with 15 minute intervals.
Technology = Distraction. Today, we are bombarded by many streams of information – emails, social media, news alerts, texts, phone messages, etc. – and we can become overwhelmed, experience brain fog, and lose focus. With so much information coming at us, it becomes more difficult to filter out what is not relevant to the task at hand. One report stated it takes an average of 15 minutes to re-orient to a primary task after checking email.
Solution: Identify your two most critical to-do tasks and allocate prime brain time to them. Shut down streams of information where you can (schedule time to check them) to avoid unwanted distractions and focus on the task at hand.
Breaks are essential. Sitting in one place staring at a computer or working on a project for a long period of time, can take its toll and can slow our productivity. Two recent studies suggest that performance is improved when we take breaks from what we are working on, and that the longer one performs a task, the longer the break needs to be to prevent a decline in performance. If we don’t give the brain a break, it becomes fatigued and not as effective.
Solution: Determine a break schedule, at least 5-10 minute breaks every hour. Some suggest for maximum performance taking a 5 minute break every 25 minutes, or 10 minutes every 50 minutes.
Mindfulness belongs in the workplace. Fortune 500 companies are introducing mindfulness into the workplace because they see the results – more present, productive, and happy employees. The good thing about mindfulness is that you can do it anytime and anywhere – and it’s free! You can try mindfulness breathing by simply sitting comfortably, shutting your eyes, and focusing solely on your breath. If you become distracted by your thoughts, just recognize it and gently return your attention to your breath.
Solution: When feeling overwhelmed, stressed, running frantically from one activity to the next, or operating on autopilot, take 1-5 minutes to practice mindfulness to refocus and give your brain the resources it needs to perform at your best.