Among the attributes that lassoed me a husband, the one I was most proud of was my “incredible multi-tasking ability.” (Others included snorkeling skills, the art of napping, salad construction, and the fact I owned a KD Lange CD.)
But the fairest of them all was the fact that I could get crap done and in a hurry. I recall several situations where I turned sagely over my shoulder and reminded him, “Don’t worry, I am an awesome multi-tasker.” (Cue head tilt, hair flip.)
Over the years, in his gentle way, Brent slowly brought to my attention that I might not be as adept at doing many things at one time as I once thought. Lost keys, forgotten appointments, missed deadlines and spelling mistakes were just a few breadcrumbs trailing behind me that evidenced he was, in fact, correct.
I am a sucky multi-tasker. Good news for me? I am not alone. Science is now revealing we all are.
We live in a time where many think that “busyness” equals personal value, “doing more” makes you better, and “doing nothing” is a waste of precious time. The concept that multitasking is a great skill to possess is going to require some societal undoing.
But changing our perspectives on multitasking is worth it. Our fractured focus and lack of awareness on the present moment are becoming a bigger problem.
I was listening to a webinar by Amy Porterfield recently, (while on the treadmill and checking my phone.) It revealed the concept of “The Cost Of Context Switching”. The speaker, Todd Herman of The Peak Athlete, spoke about that when we occupy time segments with more than one project there is a cost of conversion as we transition from one project to the next. Meaning if you try to handle several projects A, B, C and D in a particular time segment, each instance you mentally switch from one to the other causes a mental disconnect. It takes time and energy to shift your brain and to ramp up to the next task.
Todd revealed that it is worse than you think.
A study done on this very subject tells us that each additional project we try to juggle, we logarithmically loose productivity, not linearly. (See Figure.)
The diagram above really impacted my line of thinking. When I structured the projects I want to distribute across my schedule in 2016, I thought closely about where and how I was going to spend my time.
An article in this month’s Experience Life Magazine (best magazine on the planet) discusses that perhaps busyness isn’t productivity; perhaps it is just overload and that our brains were not intended to work like computers on multiple tracks. It has been repeatedly shown that we are far more effective when we put distractions aside and focus on one task at a time.
And possibly more does not make us better. Timothy Ferris, in his book the 4-hour body, writes about “MED” or The Minimal Effective Dose of things. Like discerning how long you actually need to sleep, prepare meals, finish your workload, do the basics of yard work. Perhaps finding out our personal MED of life tasks will help us remove ourselves from the “more is better” gerbil wheel. It’s okay to read half a book –YES! To consolidate and only check email twice a day – WHAT?
Finally, the scary concept of doing nothing. Doing nothing allows our brain some margin for spontaneous thought, creativity, and inspiration. This is not permission to do nothing ALL THE TIME. But if you are one of those people who gets a little anxious with idle time then you might want to consider more of it. There is an excellent book entitled Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, and Financial and Time Reserves To Our Overloaded Lives. The author proposes that many of our health issues come from a lack of margin in our life. I think he might be onto something.
So as we launch into this year, guns cocked, goals and aspirations clenched between our teeth; maybe we pause for a moment. Consider that busyness does not make any of us more important and “more” is not necessarily better.
Now, go waste some time.
(Cue head tilt, hair flip.)
Just found another great article on how multitasking messes up your brain! HERE
If you like this post wait till you read these!
So what can you do to ease up the pressure on yourself this week? To what do you need to say “no”. Where can you eliminate “schedule fluff”? (one word – NETFLIX) Really be honest with yourself. What do you need to shed that is not allowing margin in your life? Busy does not make you better it just makes you busy.