We live busy lives and have turned ourselves into decision making machines.

multitask-300x211Our days are filled with a relentless quantity of to do lists, deadlines, projects, requests, continuously hurdle towards you. Technology has been a main culprit, increasing our reaction time to be in a constant state of high alert. Emails bursting with urgency bidding for our attention. Suddenly the phone rings, intercepting our train of thought to stop the nagging ring to answer the call. We are then drawn towards the alarming sound of text messages clamoring for our response. At the corner of our eye snippets of email messages continuously flow one after the other.

We overload ourselves with more than we can produce by grossly underestimating our time commitments. This creates a backlog of tasks left in a constant influx of transition. The problem arises when we believe it is necessary to react to an endless barrage of situations, jumping from one emergency to the next, turning a flurry of activities into a cyclone. A series of events interjecting and colliding all at the same time has been created. A relentless volume of outside sources demanding our attention.  No wonder we feel exhausted!

The Multi-Task Fairytale

Multi-task is a distorted, make-belief, superhuman ‘you can do it all’ illusion. A mindset you can accomplish a massive amount of unrelated task all at the same time. The reality is you can only focus on accomplishing on task at a time. The only difference is when tasks relate and work together.  For example talking on the phone with another to review notes on the computer screen, on paper, that relates to the same task at hand.

Our brains cannot switch from one task to a completely new task without first given the opportunity to start fresh and refocus our attention. Sure there can be multiple incidents that require our attention but our brain can only focus on one thing at a time. We are not built to skip and switch from task to task in a single moment.

“Once thrown off track, it can take some 23 minutes for a worker to return to the original task.”                         Gloria Mark, Professor of informatics University of California, Irvine.

Wikipedia Definition of Multitasking

Many researchers believe that action planning represents a “bottleneck”, which the human brain can only perform one task at a time. Psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell has gone so far as to describe multitasking as a “mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously as effectively as one or can perform a separate task simultaneously.

Stop the Chaos

We live in a world consumed with distractions wanting our attention. This creates a huge impact on how quickly our reaction is to every request. It is time to stop the chaos multi-tasking generates and pick up healthier routines to accomplish task in our day.  Here are a few suggestion to help you get more done in your day

  • Give yourself permission to take a break between tasks.
  • Take a break and go for a walk
  • Move around and stretch your body
  • Take in deep breaths to allow oxygen into your brain.
  • Have a drink of water and a small snack to reenergize
  • Delegate or outsource responsibilities that are weighing you down

Your day does not need to feel like a race. Give yourself the opportunity to refocus before beginning a new task. Remember it is not how quickly or quantity of task vying for your attention, but the quality of the finish product that is important.