The next time you are on a job interview, stop mentioning multitasking as if it is something to be proud of. Instead, let the hiring manager know you are great at focusing on projects and getting things done in a timely manner.
For years, I have made time management my area of expertise. I have successfully managed projects to completion and success. I control my emails; they don’t control me. And all of this WITHOUT multitasking.
Frankly, I do not like multitasking. Unless I am a unicycle-riding, fire-spitting, circus juggler I see no need to multitask. Okay, I might drink my Starbucks while driving. But that is the limit to my multitasking.
Guy Winch, PhD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, writes, “When it comes to attention and productivity, our brains have a finite amount. It’s like a pie chart, and whatever we’re working on is going to take up the majority of that pie. There’s not a lot left over for other things, with the exception of automatic behaviors like walking or chewing gum.”
“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said Earl Miller, a systems/cognitive neuroscientist at MIT. Miller says that, for the most part, we simply can’t focus on more than one thing at a time.
Ah-ha! The opposite of multi-tasking—focus! Now, you may think “I know how to focus,” as you begin squinting your eyes really hard. But let me make it simple. Focus requires two things: a target and time.
Imagine yourself trying to shoot an arrow at a target. Television’s Green Arrow can swing from a building while dodging gunfire with a tornado at his back and still hit three targets with three arrows launched at the same time. Make believe, just like multitasking.
In the real world, what do you need to do to hit the target? You ignore the peripheral. You locate a target, perhaps a red bullseye. You focus all of your energy on your stance, your aim, and your breathing. You release and ZING! Bullseye!
Likewise, suppose you have some tasks that must be completed on a specific day. Maybe you have a report with a deadline, emails to check, and some online research to complete. You cannot expect to get it all done at the same time. Here is what you should do: First, arrange your targets by priority. As mentioned in my blog on how to Keep a To-Do List, number your priorities 1, 2, 3, and so on.
Now, place a time estimate next to each item. How long do you think it will take to accomplish the task/project. For example:
- Complete report = 25 minutes
- Check emails = 30 minutes
- Research project = 1 hour
Immediately go to your calendar. Place the task along with the time needed in your calendar.
Now, you have your target and the time. As you focus on each target, minimize all other distractions. Put your cell phone away. Let calls go to voicemail. If you are not working on checking emails, shut down your email program. Only access applications that aid with you hitting your target.
By the end of the day, ZING! you will be proud to have hit your targets.