I am a horrible multitasker. I’ll surfe the net while talking to my sister on the phone, or I’ll be waiting for my favorite show to come on telly only to check Twitter as soon as it starts. I end up with only a vague idea of what the show or the phone conversation was about and no idea whatsover what I have just “read”. It’s ridiculous! And science agree.
Studies have shown that people who do media multitasking (like reading this blog while watching TV ), are not able to filter out what’s relevant and what is not. Other studies have shown that there is a time cost involved in multitasking, that rather than being more efficient, you are actually hindering your productivity by attempting to do more than one task at a time.
So why am I still doing it? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s certainly not because I think I am being more efficient, because I know I’m not. It’s rather a compulsion, one that I’m trying to stop, and it’s probably due to my shallow brain.
How to multitask properly
And yet here I am, writing about the right way to multitask. Have I lost it? Nah. Because while the studies bring up valid and important arguments to keep in mind, there are still ways of doing several activities at once without losing out.
The studies indicate that the detrimental effect of multitasking occurs when we shift out attention from one task to another or from one media to another. To make multitasking work for you, you need to avoid this situation. So instead of shifting between two projects, you combine two tasks and do them at the same time.
There are essentially two ways of doing this. You either combine physical activity with mental or social tasks or you utilize forced waiting time to do micro tasks. By combining activities like this, you get to do more in less time, allowing you to achieve more.
Still not sure what I’m talking about? No worries, I’ve made a list of examples of how you could do several tasks at the same time without losing out:
4 WAYS TO COMBINE BODY AND MIND TASKS:
Have a walk-and-talk meeting.
Studies indicate that lack of movement, whether it is due to you sitting or standing all day, is detrimental to your health. While many tasks have to be done in front of a computer these days, not all meetings need to be conducted in an office. With a walk-and-talk you get to exercise at the same time, plus many find that the movement is beneficial to their creativity.
Go for a bike ride with a friend.
You get to hang out and be social with your mate and you can cross of exercising of your to-do list.
Learn a language while brushing your teeth.
You brush your teeth twice a day (I hope …). Why not use the time to accomplish something more than aimlessly staring at your own reflection in the mirror. Put up a list of French irregular verbs or Spanish nouns or German phrases or whatever language you are trying to learn on the inside of your cabinet doors and go through them every morning and evening when you brush your teeth.
Get fit playing with your kids.
Work up a sweat by dancing vigorously with your kids or chase them around the house or build up strength by using your toddler as a weight. Most kids love physical games, especially with their parents, so they’ll have a lot of fun and you get to have a work out for free.
4 WAYS TO USE FORCED WAITING TIME:
Get strong while making coffee.
When I work from home I make coffee in a Bialetti moka pot. This usually takes a couple of minutes or so to brew. Inspired by Dr BJ Fogg and his tiny habits, I have taken to do pushups or squats while waiting for my coffee. What could you do in the time it takes for your tea or coffee to brew?
Clean your inbox while waiting for the bus or the train.
You might be stuck at the bus stop or train station while you wait for your transportation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get things done. Delete spam, answer quick e-mails, move others to the archive. Aim for the inbox zero.
Educate yourself while commuting.
Most of us have to commute to work in some form or other. Use the time in transit to learn new skills, get a deeper understanding of a subject or to stay up to date with the changes in your sector.
Keep a book at hand.
Whether it is a physical book, your kindle or an e-book on your phone, having a book ready at all times makes it easy to catch up on your reading. Instead of flipping through a two year old magazine waiting at the dentist, wouldn’t you rather read something of your own choice?
Are you a multitasker, for better or worse?