09 March, 2015

You Cannot Multitask

Happy Monday,

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I took some mental health time to enjoy my family and recharge. We too easily let ourselves get caught in the hustle of life, going from one item on the to do list to the next, bouncing from social media account to social media account… We need to stop and redefine our lives by our terms. It is far too easy to just go from one “crisis” to another throughout the day.

I have my Daily 10. 10 Things I want to do daily to keep my sanity and my businesses going. It helps to ground me. I also try to work on the block system. I usually try to block off my day in two hour chunks to focus on one area of my life (writing, Little Things, work, etc.) and I let the rest of it go for that moment.

I’ve read a lot of books (Accidental Creative, The Creative Habit, Escaping Reaction Embracing Intention) that talk about the importance of taking control of your schedule and spending your time intentionally. More and more I’ve come to know that multitasking is a myth. You cannot focus on two things at one time. If you stepped back, took out the distraction of email, phone calls, social media (which is what we tote as being able to multi-task) and just focused on one thing for 20 minutes you would be far more productive.

But I can’t do that at my job! You respond. Really? You can’t turn off the email icon and only check your email twice an hour? Really? What emergency is going to come up in 20 minutes? It’s not that we can’t do it. It is that in our instant communication, notification of every change on ten different social media platforms, always available society, we fear that if we don’t hop on everything we will get left behind. But really, how much of what happens in your daily life is an emergency?

Could it be that if you did not respond immediately you might breed independence in your co-workers? That if you did not always supply the answer they might figure it out on their own? That you might get that never ending to do list done by putting you cell phone in your bag and not checking it every 30 seconds for an update?

What if we realized that we are not the single point of failure in any of our endeavors (because if you are that is really poor planning on whoever let that become the reality) and let ourselves off the hook? What if we were worked smarter not harder? What if we recognized what a distraction and time-suck
we’ve let our smart phones become and take steps to take back our time?

You can do it. Unless you’re the Secretary of State or the President, it can wait 20 minutes. And to be honest, if the building is on fire, someone will come get you.

The reality is that we teach people how to treat us, in life, in relationships, and at work. If you behave like you are indispensable, you teach people to rely on you in an unhealthy way. If that is your choice, you cannot complain that you “never get anything done” because you have trained people to come to you instead of thinking for themselves or just figuring it out. And while this might feel good, it’s really not healthy or good.

So start small.

1. Turn off the prompt on your email that flashes each time you get a new message.

2. Pick one item off your to do list and give yourself 20 minutes to work on it exclusively

3. Do not check your phone. Do not log into Facebook. Do not check your email.

4. Hang a sign on the door, the outside of your cube, wherever you work, to let people know you are zeroed in and will be available in 20 minutes.

5. When you are in a meeting, do not check your phone. Be present! You cannot multi-task, which means you cannot listen and read. So give the person you are with your full attention, it is basic respect. And people are watching, they know if you are only present in body.

6. When you go home, leave your phone on the counter. Just because you have a phone does not mean you are available to work or clients 24/7. Again, we establish boundaries and teach others how to treat us. Give your family your full attention. If you are out to dinner, leave the phone in your bag (or pocket). I am trying more and more not to use social media on the weekend. Friday PM to Monday AM I try not to check my email – and you know what, people have adjusted and the sky has yet to fall.

This technology in our pocket can only control us if we let it. So let’s start a revolution based on good time management skills, the truth you cannot do two things at once, and the idea that those we are with matter.

Who is with me?

What time management tips have you found helpful?

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© Amanda Lunday