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Multi-tasking

Posted by: Emma Sanders-Edwards | Posted on: September 22nd, 2014 | 0 Comments

Multi-tasking often makes you feel as though you are being exceptionally efficient, getting lots done and are on top of things.
Except generally you’re not. In fact, you’re probably faring a lot worse. We know that brains need to focus on one thing at a time to get things done – our brains don’t work in parallel.

To multi-task, they need to stop one thing, then start another – first, remembering what they were doing, then work on that one for a bit, then stop that, then return to the first task, remember what they were up to….

Sound confusing? It’s probably why if you take an IQ test while you’re trying to multi-task, you are actually 13 points DUMBER. Think about that next time you’re trying to finish a piece of work, answer a colleague’s email, and answer the phone!

Why does this happen? Researchers at the University of Rochester found that the ability to focus is strongly correlated with intelligence. Being able to drown out interruptions and background noise, and focus on the task in front of you means your brain can work more efficiently and isn’t dealing with an overload of information.

This isn’t surprising when you think about how well sports stars and the like do – they give up a lot of other activities to focus in on achieving one goal.

So, how can we use this? Practicing focus is something you can train yourself to be better at. With all the new technologies and expectations thrown at us everyday, everyone struggles with focusing to some degree. As I write this, I have heard my phone go off telling me there is a text waiting for me. It is taking all my focus to continue to write and not quickly check what has come through to me! Good people just have systems to deal with it. For example;

  • Pick small tasks and goals and finish them without a single distraction. Maybe start with five or ten minute blocks of time where you won’t check your phone or do anything other than what you are focusing on. Increase over time. Tell those you are working with so they don’t think you’re just being rude!
  • Reward yourself. When you have completed your focus time/task take a break and reward yourself (a coffee, a chat, whatever).
  • Remove the distractions. Put your phone on silent. Tell the guys that you are all having ten minutes of focus – no interruptions – at all. If you need to read, go into a room and close the door. Do whatever you can to remove the things that normally distract you.

Finally, take note of how much you achieve when trying these tips. The good feeling you get from completing tasks will help build a new focusing habit, and before long you’ll be focusing like Dan Carter.

FIND OUT MORE

Test yourself on the focusing task given in the University of Rochester study
John Medina – Why we can’t multi-task

Feeling a bit of end-of-year overload? Two tips to help you feel a bit less frazzled…

Posted by: Emma Sanders-Edwards | Posted on: December 2nd, 2013 | 0 Comments

Challenge yourself to end this year on a high note!

  1. Think action, not perfection. Sometimes our perfectionism can lead to inaction. You don’t want to start a task because you have set an impossibly high standard for yourself. Try dropping that standard to 80%. If you still want to keep to that high standard, start by aiming to complete it to 80%, then going back and improving on it. It’s a lot easier to fix an 80% piece of work than it is to fix a non-existent one! You are better to do something rather than nothing.
  2. Make sure that everything on your ‘To Do’ list is specific enough to be a ‘Next Action‘. According to David Allen – the time management guru who wrote ‘Getting Things Done‘ – actions such as ‘Improve engagement’ are too vague – and if we know we can’t complete them, we subconsciously procrastinate on them. Get specific – ‘Schedule a 30 minute meeting with each team member to find out what would engage them more’.

What is behind this? Psychologists call the nagging impact of unfinished tasks the Zegarnik Effect. Uncompleted tasks tend to pop into our mind until they are completed and this can make you feel overwhelmed. Studies show that even if you just make a plan to deal with something, the unfinished task stops popping into your mind.

So, how can we use this?

Have a look through your To Do list. (If you don’t have a To Do list – that’s your first job – make one!)

  1. Consider what would have to happen for each task if it was just done to an 80% standard. Would it still be OK?
  2. Write down the ‘Next Action‘ for each task or project you have.
  3. Sit down, make a six week plan and slot in when you’re going to do each task. Even if the plan freaks you out – you’ll feel a lot better knowing you’ve got one!
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