When I first became a working mother, then later a mom-preneur working from home, I discovered the need for multitasking… BIG TIME! Today, it seems to be a necessity. However, there are those who are telling us our brains just don’t work that way.
So how is it possible that everyone all around us is doing IT?
I’ve noticed as I get older, the multitasking genius is fading and it’s often more difficult to track two similar activities, like talking on the phone and scanning a web article. My brain goes into rebellion. Other factors seem to affect my abilities too. i.e. some days are better than others. Do you know what I mean?
So, I decided to do a little research on the art of multitasking. Here’s what I found:
- Our brains can’t multi-task (sorry, but it seems to be true!)
- It’s more stressful when we try to make it multi-task (most of us have experienced this!)
- Multi-tasking is really switching the brain’s attention from one task or awareness to another. (‘Command center, pay attention to THIS now!’)
- As we age, get too caffeinated, fatigued or stressed our brains ability to switch focus effectively can deteriorate.
- We can train our brains to be more effective at switching focus by practicing!
I find the creative tasks are the ones that demand my full attention. If I’m sitting here thinking about why my phone is beeping softly, whether my laundry is dry, and how much time I’ll need to make the soup I promised everyone for dinner… well, things just won’t gel like I want, which will result in a lot more time to get it right.
Here’s the quandary:
How can something that is functionally impossible, seemingly destructive and potentially non-productive be so darn essential for success in the 21st century?? (That’s a lot of adverbs in one sentence, but I think you can see the necessity!)
So, here’s my Mastering Multi-tasking for the Creative/Mobile Entrepreneur Checklist, in spite of it all:
- Remember that you are not thinking 2+ things at the same time; you are simply switching back and forth, so practice becoming quicker at it by using your brainpower without getting stressed
- Develop your list of habitual skills with practice. Make a list if that helps. The more time you spend practicing an activity, the less focus it takes for your brain, then the easier (and less stressful!) it is to switch focus while continuing your habitual activity.
- Try multitasking between habitual activities and brain-intense activities (like washing dishes + talking on the phone, or walking + listening to an audio seminar)
- When something is really important or demanding of your full creative talents, remove distractions, set a timer and give it 100% focus for the allotted time.
- Get up and move every 1-2 hours! Make a couple of quick phone calls while walking around the block. Today, I started the dishwasher, laundry and cooking the soup at 10 a.m… Once set up they don’t require my attention, but technically I am the ultimate multitasker. When I take my mini-break, I give myself 10-15 minutes to put the laundry in the dryer, empty the dishwasher and stir the soup (on timer so I don’t need to worry until it beeps). Then back to work, fully focused and refreshed.
- Find tools that work for you to make you more effective. I always liked lists because once I make the list I don’t have to keep trying to remember what else I need to do. Very distracting! I also love Evernote to keep all my research results handy at the click of a button. This one tool has saved me incredible time, stress and paper piles.
- Take a brain break! You know, stand up, stretch, deep breathe and don’t try to do anything for 5 minutes except just BE in the moment.
- Even better, take a ‘screen break’. Study, read, think, talk with real people… anything without a screen, touchpad or earpiece. Shop even…woohoo…in a real store, I mean. This one we’re talking one hour+.
- Reward yourself when an important task is complete… is that a power nap, a coffee with a friend or just curling up with your favorite magazine with a cup of tea? Your brain will love you and perform better for it.
Below you’ll find a few articles I came across while researching this article. I’d also love to hear how you handle multiple task challenges, so please share your ideas.
Make it a focused, productive, low stress day by going out there and employing your creative talents, one at a time.
Further research suggestions:
How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work)
Secrets of Multitasking: Slow Down to Speed Up
How to Multitask Without Losing Your Mind
Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again