Are you a multitasker? I used to multitask all day long until I realized that it didn’t work and in fact it was taking me longer to get stuff done. I am going to explain what mental multi-tasking is and why it takes longer to get stuff done when you are multi-tasking.
What is multi-tasking?
I am sure you are aware that multi-tasking means doing more than one thing at the same time. When I taught college classes in leisure education, at the time this was considered time deepening. That sounds like a coolio concept, doesn’t it? Don’t we all want to deepen the time we have? Turning 168 hours into more sounds like a great way to get EVERYTHING done. Whallah! multi-tasking!
I used to be a mean multitasker. People could not believe how much I could get done in a day. It would be a common occurrence for me to be on the phone while responding to emails and eating lunch. Wow! Look at me. I could do three things at the same time; or could I? More on that later.
multi-tasking can work when we are doing simple, common everyday tasks. For example, you can certainly fold laundry while talking on the phone. You can also wash dishes while you are having a conversation. I often run while listening to music. Have you ever been reading, gotten to the end of a page and asked yourself, what did I just read there? You have probably drifted off and started thinking as you were reading.
When I say it can work in some situations what I mean is, you can multitask and fairly effectively, but does any one thing really get your full attention (see below). Have you ever been washing dishes, dropped a glass and broke it? I have! It usually happens because you are doing something else or thinking something else.
So, what is really happening?
Even though human beings have evolved a lot, unfortunately, we can not do more than one thing at a time effectively. Our brain will try to switch back and forth between the multiple things we are doing but as our brain is trying to make that switch we lose focus and information with a task and it pulls our attention away from another task (or two) so that thing is not getting our attention…tripping on the sidewalk, breaking a glass or in my case of running with headphones, not seeing a car jet out in front of me.
Thinking of thinking something else. This is prime time multi-tasking. I tell all of my clients that when you are in your head thinking, you are no longer performing that task. For example, if you are an athlete who can not let go of a mistake you just made, during competition, you are no longer playing the game. This is a common occurrence for my clients but when I explained to them that their ego just hijacked their game, they definitely want to figure out how not to allow that to happen. Ever again!
Another common example of this is when a musician has practiced a piece over and over but, in an audition, wants to continue to think through it. I often say, then why practice? If you are going to overthink your audition, you are overriding your practice and may as well not practice. On the flipside, if you are thinking your way through an audition you are no longer just playing and that is when mistakes and more mistakes happen.
How do you stop it?
Give your attention to the one thing you are doing. Right here. Right now. Be present.
- Develop your ability to be present. This will help you be in what you are doing, recognize when you are not and the ability to bring your attention back to what you are doing.
- Put things in a schedule so you know what you have to do next and can prioritize accordingly. Between teaching, meeting with clients and workshops my schedule can get cray cray. When I break things down into small pieces and plop them into my schedule I know they are more than likely going to get done. This helps me accomplish my goals but also eliminates them from my mind and prevents it from straying into a million other places.
- Schedule consistent breaks. Whether it is work, writing a song or working out, schedule consistent breaks. During those breaks allow your brain 5-15 minutes rest (depends on what works for you) and do something else. I usually recommend that you do something that entertains your brain – as to play – Netflix, FB, IG or the like. ? During this time try to let go of ‘the work’.
- Think about how long you want your day to be and be realistic about what you can get done in a day.
- Figure out how to be more efficient. I like the book The Power of Less because I think all of us can benefit learning how to do things more simply.
- Develop your mindset.