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Millennials, Stop Multitasking to Become More Productive

Millennials, Stop Multitasking to Become More Productive

Millennials are born to multitask. With the world right at their fingertips through smart phones and tablets, this generation has mastered how to use multiple apps, devices and communication channels to multitask all day long. But is this common habit really beneficial to your workday? Contrary to popular belief, multitasking should not be done in the workplace! Here’s why:

More stressful.

Why do most people multitask? Because they want to get things done and be less stressed out at work. However, constantly interrupting your work to switch your attention to something else actually causes cognitive overload and leads to a more stressful mindset. Even though you think multitasking allows you to reduce stress by knocking things off your to-do list, you’re actually working against yourself by doing it.

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Takes more time.

Think you’re saving yourself more time by working on multiple tasks at once? Not the case! Every time you stop what you’re doing to work on another task, you lose seconds, or even minutes. This may not seem like much, but in reality, it is estimated that multitasking can lead to up to a 40% loss of your productivity per day. Not only are you costing your company time that could have been better spent on focusing on one task, you’re also wasting your own valuable time! Instead, create a to-do list arranged by importance of each task. Start at the top and focus on one thing at a time without moving from it until it has reached completion. Once you finish each task, feel free to check emails and voicemails before diving into the next item on your list.

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Prone to errors.

Multitasking means you’re dividing your attention between a number of different tasks, leaving you more likely to cause errors no matter the simplicity of the task at hand. This is especially true of tasks that require close attention to detail which are already prone to human error. Are you on a conference call with distributors while also entering inventory numbers into the system? Double check those numbers because chances are, you probably inverted a few digits without evening knowing it.

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Prevents creative juices from flowing.

Millennials love to come up with innovative ideas, but being a multitasker means you might have to say goodbye to this creative process. Why? Research shows that multitasking uses up the working memory since the brain is trying to cram in information from a number of different tasks all at once. Because people need space in their working memory in order to think creatively, day dream or generate fresh ideas, multitasking shuts this process down so you can focus on getting tasks done. If you work in a creative role within your company, shut your email down when it comes time to brainstorm so you can let your mind wander and come up with new ideas.

But wait…

There may be some hope for all of you Millennial multitaskers after all. There are certain times when multitasking works, but only when the two tasks activate different parts of your brain, leaving your head feeling less overwhelmed and foggy. A great example is to multitask by getting in your exercise and commuting at the same time by skipping the traffic and taking a bike ride to work in the morning. Or, bring your iPad with you to catch up on industry articles while you walk on the treadmill or hit the elliptical after work. No matter what you choose, pick tasks that don’t overwork the same part of your brain and you’ll finally have mastered the right (and only) way to multitask in life.

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Joel Goldstein

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

How bad really is multitasking?

It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

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We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

So what to do about it?

Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

Now, forget about how to multitask!

Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

1. Get enough rest

When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

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2. Plan your day

When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

4. When at your desk, do work

We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

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Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

5. Learn to say no

Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

6. Turn off notifications on your computer

For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

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You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

The bottom line

Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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