Conducting two unrelated tasks at the simultaneously is multi-tasking. If you are writing a document while referring to an associated spreadsheet at the same time, it is not multi-tasking. And yes, it is possible to fold laundry and watch a favorite TV show concurrently without consequence. In fact, there may be some level of satisfaction associated with the accomplishment of completing a rote activity with another passive form of relaxation. However, if you are bouncing between deciding on an issue while chatting with friends and reading the newspaper, you are not giving your full attention to any of the three…even if you believe you are.
What are some common side effects of multi-tasking? • Missing important instructions • Replying to everyone on an e-mail • Feeling overwhelmed and/or anxious • Misplacing documents, directions or ancillary materials • Chronic lateness
According to Peter Khawand, CEO of People On The Go, “When we are interrupted, our results drop down to zero. It takes time to re-load short term memory and determine where we were when switching back and forth between tasks.” Constant mini-shifts from one activity to another are an energetic and cognitive drain. Furthermore, Khawand states, “When we’re working 2-minutes here and there, it’s really hard to get deeply into anything. We lose the ability to think strategically and solve deep issues.” In fact, more employers are looking individuals who can uni-task and fully concentrate. While speed may be important, clear and focused thinking is even more important.
What can you do? • STOP continually checking e-mails, facebook and other on-line sites • Turn off your cell phone, e-mail notifications and other interruptions • Make lists of what needs to be done and the detailed steps to complete a task • After a stretch of uninterrupted activity, give yourself a “connectivity” reward of conversation with a friend or colleague in person or on-line