October / Productivity 2
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Do you ever feel like screaming? Trying to do everything at once can make you angry. Many think multitasking is an asset and a skill to list on a resume. In actuality, the brain can't manage two intelligent activities at the same time. Studies show it slows us down, leads to errors, memory problems, and most important it puts us in constant high alert.
Multitasking is Perilous
Multitasking "creates a perilous cocktail of brain problems, from severe stress and rage in adults to learning problems and autism-like behavior in children," says John Naish, author of "Enough." Ironically, multitasking makes us less efficient because the human brain can't juggle. Instead, the brain switches frantically from task to task and that just makes us feel crazy. It causes chemical changes in the brain due to chronically raised levels of cortisol. Dr. Alan Keen, a behavioral scientist in Australia believes that multitasking is a significant reason that we are witnessing epidemics of rage, aggression and cardiovascular disease.
Multitasking is Not Smart
If tasks are simple multitasking can work. You can listen to music and fold laundry. When tasks are more complex, it becomes impossible. Overloaded circuits cause a logjam in your brain so multitasking actually makes you less intelligent. Scientific research shows it can lower your IQ by ten points and you become 40% slower in problem solving. We are just not built this way. The more you multitask, the harder it becomes to ever concentrate and focus on intellectual tasks. It weakens the neural circuitry and we go on autopilot. Manic attention switching robs us of creativity.
Tony Schwartz, founder of The Energy Project says, the way we're working isn't working. Rather than working longer hours, juggling more tasks and emails, research shows we are meant to work in 90-minute intervals. "As every great athlete understands, the highest performance occurs when we balance work and effort with rest and renewal. Human beings aren't wired to be computers." After 90 minutes, we go into arousal state of fight or flight. His solution: focus single-mindedly on one high-priority task for 60 to 90 minutes preferably during the mornings. Then take a break
Try Something Different
This idea from Phillip Bregman, strategic advisor to companies like GE and Nike, appears in the "Harvard Business Review Guide to Getting the Right Work Done." Write everything on a piece of paper. Tackle all the fast and easy tasks in the first 15 minutes. Notice I didn't say the most important tasks. Just the ones you can finish fast. That should give you a burst of accomplishment.
Next, take your most daunting task, the one that causes you the most stress or is the highest priority. Work on that for the next 35 minutes, without any interruptions at all. Turn all notifications off. No email, phone, snacks, etc. Forward movement should become possible.
Then, take a 10-minute break and get away from your desk. Start the hourly cycle all over again with 15 minutes of quick actions. Let me know how it works for you.
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