“The hardest thing to learn is not ‘how to juggle,’ but how to let the balls drop.”
~ Anthony Frost
“My name is Lisa and I am a multitask-aholic.” (Hi, Lisa…) Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a support group where we could all come together and share the burdens of having to do everything all at once?
Although we feel we are accomplishing more when we work on several projects at once, we are less productive. Research shows that chronic multitaskers have trouble ignoring irrelevant information. (Oops, time to check my email, I’ll be right back.) They have trouble organizing their working memory and they switch from one task to another inefficiently. My own multitasking leads to more stress, less sleep and a feeling of always being on the hamster wheel. Not fun.
So how do you break the multitasking habit? According to a great skit that Bob Newhart did several years ago on Mad TV, there are two words that will cure you – STOP IT! It’s a magical mindset and for me, a constant reminder. You may find yourself throughout the day saying, “STOP IT!” I know I do:
Concentrate on one activity at a time and work on it until it’s done or until you’ve reached a logical place to stop. Using a timer is also beneficial. Let’s say that you have two hours and you want to get the following tasks done: (1) Clean your office, (2) Check your email, and (3) Send out a thank-you note. What often happens is that you get so involved in the cleaning of your office or checking your email that that’s the ONLY thing that you get done (and the emails keep coming).
Instead, use a timer and distribute the time you have to get done what you want. In our two hour example, set the timer for one hour to clean the office and when the timer goes off, no matter where you are in the process, STOP! Set the timer again for forty-five minutes to take care of your email/internet tasks and again, when the timer goes off, STOP. You now have fifteen minutes to write your note. If any of the tasks don’t take as long as you’ve given them, congratulations. Use the leftover time to do something you WANT to do, instead of something you HAVE to do. Reward yourself for getting all three things done.
Continuously ask yourself questions: is this activity worth my time and will working on this move me closer to or further away from my goals? Choose to work on things that are most important first, and be willing to let other things go.
Start saying “no” more often so you have the time to give your full attention to each task. You’ll feel much better about yourself, your time will become more of your own, and you can once again become a human BEING instead of a human DOING.
Which balls will you let DROP today?
Yes, there are bosses, children and spouses out there that won’t necessarily agree with the ”balls” you decide to drop. Start with tasks that don’t involve others to develop your “STOP IT” muscle. You’ll have the strength to control what you are spending your precious time doing.
Lisa Ryan is the guest speaker for the September 11, 2013 luncheon. She is the author of “The Upside of Down Times: Discovering the Power of Gratitude” and owner of Grategy™.