Multitasking can simply be defined as the ability to do more than one thing at a time. I often ask at my workshop if anyone in attendance prides themselves in being a great multitasker. This question is usually met with a few enthusiastic hands up. To be truthful, this is kind of a trick question. Multitasking has two sides…the “Good Multitasking” and the “Bad Multitasking.”
When looking at whether multitasking is good or bad, you have to first look at the situation and ask yourself if it is having a positive or negative impact on what it is you are trying to accomplish at that moment.
An example of “Good” multitasking could easily be demonstrated by watching the cook in the house. When preparing a meal, it is often necessary to stir a pot, peel a potato, read a recipe and wash a dish within minutes of each other. This is essential for the perfect timing of the meal and that all the dishes are orchestrated to the table at the same time. In this instance, multitasking is “Good” and will have a positive impact on the success of the meal.
On the contrary is “Bad” multitasking. If you spend your day stopping and restarting tasks because you are interrupted by the alert of an incoming email, text messages, phone call, or any other “shiny object”, you will find yourself unproductive and mentally drained at the end of your day. This type of multitasking is better labeled as “Switch-Tasking.” How often have you heard someone say “I worked so hard today and I feel like I did not get anything accomplished”? Well, if this is you, stop the insanity! The behavior is having a negative impact and is “Bad.”
To stop “Bad” multitasking from taking over your day, challenge yourself to focus on one task at a time. Have a visual reminder, such as a colorful stone, sitting on your desk. When you see it, it will prompt you to focus on the task at hand. Another great reminder tool is a pager -type device called the MotivAider™ . It’s worn on your waist and gently vibrates at various time intervals to remind you of your intention, such as “Am I making the best use of my time right now?”
Another successful technique is to set a time limit for completing the task you are about to embark on. By nature of having a timer holding you accountable, your competitive side will kick in to beat the clock and not let a distraction divert your attention. Try it for a day and see how it makes you feel!