Have you ever tried talking on the phone, cooking, helping a child with homework, and thinking about a problem at work all at the same time? What happens? Dinner is half cooked or burnt, children are frustrated because they’re not getting your full attention and your friend on the phone knows you’re not really listening.
It’s not surprising that studies have found that people who are “masters at multitasking” actually get less done and the quality of their work suffers. They are more easily distracted, their memories are worse, and they can’t filter out irrelevant material. The brain slows way down when we leap from project to project. Each shift in attention causes us to redirect our thoughts and it takes a while to get back into the flow of things.
The simple truth is we can only truly focus on doing one thing at a time. And if we honor that, it will allow us to be more present in the moment and truly enjoy what that moment brings, whether it be quality time with the kids or family, quiet time for yourself or simply watching TV (without being on the internet and talking to your spouse at the same time)!
So how do we retrain ourselves to become more efficient as a unitasker?
Here are some tips I discovered on unitasking:
1.) Being organized is essential. You must have clearly in mind what’s important and what is just causing clutter in life.
2.) Determine what hours in the day are to be devoted to the family and stick with it. Shut off the phone, computer, and television -- anything that causes distractions.
3.) Schedule household chores by the week or month so you know exactly what has to be accomplished. Then do it right away rather than procrastinate. Often it works best to do the hardest or least-liked job first. (If there aren’t certain chores you can’t stand or never seem to get around to doing you may want to outsource them.)
4.) Spend a few minutes the night before or first thing in the morning to make a written list about what has to be done for the day. Focus on doing one at a time. Do the hardest when you are at your peak strength and attention.
5.) Use the Internet and read emails only at a set time of day and for a specific amount of time. You could even set a timer to help you stick to your commitment.
6.) Fill the times you have to wait with small projects that can be done. For example, reading the mail or filing information while you’re waiting for dinner to come out of the oven.