Don’t get caught with the multi-tasking Flu!
All through the day, our minds alternate between the physical, digital and the virtual world. While working on a project, you look at your emails, call someone on the mobile, checking with children if they are back from school, exchange a few words with a colleague, worry about your sick family member, and think about the need for the shopping to be done, while planning about the car maintenance task and more.
At home, you switch on the TV, prepare snacks for the children, while looking at the text messages in the mobile; tidy up one of the rooms, worrying about the project deadline in a couple of days at work while wondering about the neighbour’s daughter! In the meanwhile, your mom calls up, you receive another text message and the children are waiting for your snacks; you also remember the clothes that had been left to dry in the morning in the clothesline!
Multi-tasking: is it a brain drain of a different style? Is it a train of thoughts and action getting derailed into more thoughts and less action?
You are so much used to multi-tasking that you don’t even realize that you do multi-tasking! You get ready to office with a glance at the morning news, a sip from out of the morning tea while handing over a shirt to your husband and extending a hand of help to the children. While attending the mobile, you tidy up the children’s books in their cupboard, your mind furiously working on the morning breakfast, lunch meeting at work and trying to fix up on a recipe for the dinner!
Oops! We do put on a lot of strain on our brain and body, with the result that the damning factors of anxiety, stress, restlessness and mild depression enter into our lives with wide merriment!
1. The Solution: Disconnect from multi-tasking firmly and unplug from the switch point of multi-tasking which depletes all your energy at one go. Either do one thing at a time or at least do related things at one time that wouldn’t put a strain on your brain.
Let’s look at some tips on how to relax your brain and focus on handling either one thing at a time or do a few related things at the same time:
2. Brain Map: Time and again, the researchers had found and had agreed upon that our minds are made to focus on one thing at a time; the mind can handle different things simultaneously, provided the tasks are managed by different parts of the brain. The brain can also manage to multi-task if one of the tasks is so mundane that it does not need any conscious effort on the part of the brain. Ex: watering the plant, talking over the mobile, while drinking some orange juice.
You may not be able to do multiple tasks effectively that involves the use of the same brain area at the same time; like reading something, while adding up maths and texting a message on your mobile.
Hence, the remedy lies in working on a Single Task with a complete focus; after completing it you should move on to the next task. This will give raise to more productivity than trying to do all things all at once.
When you repeatedly do multi-tasking, what you really are doing is to multi-distract your brain, resulting in stress and reduced productivity in your tasks. You may start by doing many tasks, but may end up unfinished in most of them. Better would be to start on a single task, complete it and move on. Otherwise, you may start on a task, complete a chunk of it and work on another task, and come back again to finish off the first one!
3. Handle your day in Blocks: Allot specific time for specific tasks. Draw up a To-Do List. Don’t get tempted to check mails while you are working on an urgent project. Allot a specific time for checking the mails, returning the phone calls, doing your household work, completing a project and for the other tasks.
4. Avoid distractions: When you are handling one job at one time in one block, keep the door closed on the other distractions. When you are working on a PowerPoint program, work ONLY on the .ppt. You should close down and switch off the rest of the distraction from that block, like your mobile, the mails, casual chat with your colleagues, thoughts about your family and more. Just distract the distractions and concentrate on your earmarked task.
5. Improve on your Concentration: Doing one thing at one time will be more effective if you will totally be focused on your job. Take measures to improve on your concentration, like meditation and other Zen Habits.
6. Club together similar tasks: Clubbing together the similar tasks like responding to all the missed calls or sending out the pending emails at one go etc. shall make your work more easily compared to doing unrelated tasks in one block.
7. Stop vague day dreaming: Many of us start doing a task, but then get interrupted by our own thoughts; we start travelling back and forth from past to future in our minds. The past may hurt or it might make you to feel guilty, whereas the future thoughts would makes you to feel financially insecure. There may well be a hundred reasons for your mind to start getting wandered into the chaos territory. Pulling the mind back into the present is the most important aspect of your completing your task within the set time limits. It needs a lot of practice, but it has to be done.
8. Take Multi-Breaks: We try to stop multi-tasking to improve on our efficiency and to reduce the stress and anxiety on our mind and on our body. Taking multiple breaks of short duration shall help you to relax more and to feel more calm and peaceful in mind. Stretch your body, raise your hands and take your legs for a walk. Drink fruit juice instead of tea or coffee.
Q. I simultaneously try to do a number of things and end up doing nothing fruitful and not much work getting accomplished. However, I never know any other way of working except multi-tasking. I just don’t know how to take it easy as I get stressed up a lot. How to slow down?
Been there and done that! We are discussing here how not to do multi-tasking and to take one step at a time in order to complete one task at a time with focus and attention.
Multi-tasking has become a fast spreading virus now, giving rise to stress in our day to day life. You should become a part of the peace keeping force like meditation or any other relaxation techniques; you should switch off your communication network at least for an hour every day. Our forefathers were alive before the advent of the modern communication network and so will we, at least for a few short hours every day!
Live more in the present; relax with your family and talk more with the physical people and not just to the virtual ones. Take a long winded breath to feel the inner calm multiple times during the day.
The chances are there that you may see the results of the restorative properties sooner or later.
Finally, do not allow others to take advantage of you; most of the time, we are not able to say No to our family, friends, neighbors colleagues and others. We are always ready to do a favor for all and sundry because we are not into saying an emphatic No in favors of us! We just add a couple of more tasks in our lengthy multi-tasking list, ending up with frustration, stress and depression.
Start saying No to people if you are not able to help some one whenever that some one needs your help. You don’t need to go out of the way to help others and hurt yourselves in the process. You should do something for the others, if you can and if you feel comfortable in doing the favour.
You should get into the habit of mono-tasking as against the multi-tasking; you would feel more relaxed, more at peace with yourself and may even get more work done than before!
Multi-tasking is actually less productive compared to doing one or two thing at a time with focus.
E-Book – How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking