Over the past 10 years or so businesses have become leaner by reducing employee numbers, focusing on efficiency and increasing the demands on their staff. An increased workload forces us to multi-task, which may be effective for a short period of time, but over the long term, can cause stress.
Multi-tasking is not about “piling on the work” to the point of exhaustion. It’s about training the brain to channel energy in an efficient and effective manner so you can accomplish more in less time. One of the keys to learning how to multitask effectively is actually to slow down, in order to accomplish more.
Try to think of your brain as a computer. If you are working within multiple programmes and have numerous windows open so you can quickly jump from programme to programme, you may find that your computer crashes a lot, due to the strain. The same thing happens in your brain. When you’re performing multiple tasks that require your undivided attention, your brain gets overloaded, as it can only process information from one channel at a time. Therefore, do not multi-task if the assignment requires your full attention.
Make lists and write things down. You can’t remember everything so having a central to-do list is helpful. If you have a list of items you need to refer to often (such as pricing schedules or keyboard shortcuts) position this next to your phone or computer for quick access. Diarise some “management time” in your calendar each day – this might be a 45 minute slot where you have no meetings and can take stock, look at your to-do list and work through anything that needs your immediate attention.
Shift multitasking to single tasking
Your brain cannot multi-task all the time. So, occasionally, stop multi-tasking and allow yourself to do just one thing for fifteen to twenty minutes. At the end of this “rest period”, you’ll feel refreshed, alert, and ready to tackle more tasks – and you’ll do so with fewer mistakes.
Take regular breaks
Make the most of your breaks – avoid working through lunch and make sure to take a short break in the morning and afternoon. Use your break to walk around the building, sit outside, or do whatever you like for a few minutes to clear your head and give your brain a rest. Taking this time out during the day can actually make you more productive.