According to some, the more you do things at the same time, the greater your success! Even companies look for this capability during recruitment interviews. But in reality, our brains can not cope with several things simultaneously. Multitasking is simply impossible. It’s more a question of quickly switch from one task to another.
Our brain is most effective when we can completely dedicate ourselves to a task. Do several things at the same time is less effective as quickly perform one after the other.
As such, one can attend to several parallel activities such as reading a newspaper while enjoying breakfast. But this only works if the brain places eating on autopilot so we can concentrate on our reading. As soon as you try to concentrate on two things at once, the brain starts to determine which task should take priority. This is also why at the wheel, it is advisable not to have a sustained, thought provoking conversation. Multitasking places excessive strain on the brain creating an information overload. Too many stimuli at the same time have adverse psychological and physical effects.
There are also several studies that have shown how the information age and the continued, constant use of multiple digital devices can actually cause severe “burn out”. In the long term it could lead to cognitive impairment.
These tips will help increase productivity whilst helping to prevent “burn out”
1. Making choices
Our short term memory can retain one element at a time. If we need to store several elements at the same time then we record these in long term memory. Information committed to long term memory generally has longer recall time and is also more prone to lead to more mistakes. This is the conclusion Jelmer Borst came to during his research on multitasking at the University of Groningen. He showed that the brain is most effective if it is not required to process several items at once, which requires making choices and making choices uses brain resources. If focused on one task at a time then the brain doesn’t need to waste resources on making choices and can dedicate the bulk of it’s resource to the single task at hand.
2. Consolidate several tasks
We are most productive when our attention can be focused on a main task. This can be done by grouping similar tasks, which is not the same thing as multitasking. Fragmenting your work will help you in the rhythm and increase your productivity.
3. Multitasking awake
If you have no other choice but to multitask then do it mindfully. Setup a a time frame in which you combine different tasks knowingly. Setting up a time frame will allow you to dedicate X amount of time to try and multitask then taking a break and if need be repeat the session again. However it should be noted that doing this is not likely to produce better quality work than if you dedicated yourself to each task individually.
4. Set your priorities
Make a morning list of your “To Do’s” and keep to your list firmly. By the end of the day if you have managed to go through everything on the list you will end the day with a sense of achievement, less stress and the feeling of being in control. This feeling of well being goes a long way in building your ability to cope with stress.
5. Do not get distracted
How many times are you starting something then before completion move on to something else? If possible continue until that task is completed, avoid interruptions by setting up separate times for when you are available for colleagues or to take the phone. I really good time management method is the Pomodor method. It’s a really simple yet effective productivity tool. If you simply Google “Pomodoro method” you will find a number of online or downloaded-able Pomodor timers as well as instructions on how to use the method.
6. Remove obstacles and clutter
Maintaining a clean and clutter free work-space also helps to keep your mood and brain more relaxed. Some people work better in noisy, busy environments whilst some people prefer a quiet place to work. Make sure you discover which works best for you and then to create the right work environment. Headphones can be great to both block out outside noise and interference as well as listen to music if you are one of those people that work better when there is background music.
7. Try to seperate work and private life.
It’s difficult to remain productive during working hours if we are preoccupied with thoughts of our private life constantly. Off course this can not be avoided if a person is going through a traumatic experience in their private life, like the loss of a loved one or perhaps a messy divorce for example. However for the most part there is no reason to be preoccupied with private life issues whilst at work.
8. Dare to ask for help
No shame in asking for reinforcements from your colleagues if you really need. Multitasking should not be the first option as it’s not the ideal solution, sometimes it needs to be done but if it can be avoided it should be.
Taking some of the above steps combined with a natural brain supplement like Neurolon could give you a distinct advantage over your peers and help you to keep your productivity levels high and consistent, without compromising on the quality of work produced.